Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund and an expected challenger to Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2012 French presidential election, is heading to court Monday to face charges that he tried to rape a maid in his $3,000-a-night New York City hotel suite on Saturday. Police yanked Strauss-Kahn out of the first-class cabin of an Air France jet this weekend moments before it was scheduled to take off for Paris. Strauss-Kahn's lawyers say he was eating lunch with his daughter at the time of the alleged attack, but the 32-year-old maid picked him out in a police lineup. The shocking case has thrown French politics and the IMF into turmoil. Here, four possible consequences:
1. Europe's debt crisis may get worse
Strauss-Kahn's arrest has "cast uncertainty over global efforts to prevent Europe's debt crisis from spinning out of control," say Zachary A. Goldfarb and Brady Dennis in The Washington Post. As leader of the IMF, Strauss-Kahn has been "a muscular advocate" for helping Greece, Ireland, and Portugal avoid sinking into insolvency. This scandal may make it harder to pull the struggling countries out of their debt mess, increasing the odds that one will go broke, which "would shock the global financial markets and endanger the nascent economic recovery in the United States."
2. France's far-right could get a boost
Strauss-Kahn was seen as the man who might rescue France's Socialist Party, says Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker, and help it unseat center-right President Nicolas Sarkozy next year. Despite a reputation as a womanizer, Strauss-Kahn was considered "a man of sense... a rational, pragmatic centrist." But his arrest changes all that, and will likely taint the political center, too. In France, that works to the advantage of the Right. So the big winner here could be Marine Le Pen, head of the extreme right-wing National Front.
3. The struggling Sarkozy might escape defeat
Strauss-Kahn's "spectacular fall from grace immediately alters the rules of the French political game," says Emma-Kate Symons at The Australian. The unpopular Sarkozy was running scared ahead of his 2012 re-election bid. Now his most serious potential opponent appears eliminated and the most likely scenario is that Sarkozy will wind up in a run-off with a Socialist second-stringer, and that's a race the embattled president can win.
4. Conspiracy theories will be spun
"Label me a cynic, but there may be more than meets the eye" here, says Rick Moran at The American Thinker. The maid says she didn't know Strauss-Kahn was in the room — naked — when she entered. That could happen if there's no "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door. "But in the most expensive suite of an expensive hotel housing a VVIP guest? It doesn't ring true." This couldn't have worked out better for Sarkozy if he had planned it. Did he?