French left clings to hope that former IMF chief can run against Sarkozy

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The Independent Online

Within hours of the news that the case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn had run into trouble, there were suggestions from some French politicians that he could still enter the race for the presidency.

Socialist MP Michèle Sabban called for the party's primaries – which would decide who challenges President Nicolas Sarkozy next year – to be suspended to allow him to run as a candidate.

When he was arrested in May, Strauss-Kahn was the favourite to win the primaries, and opinion polls put him in front of Mr Sarkozy. Other Socialists were more cautious. The party's spokesman said only that a suspension for the primaries was "not the order of the day" since it was not known whether the charges would be dropped.

The primaries are scheduled for October, just in time for the presidential election in April and May next year. Socialist party candidates have until midnight on July 13 to declare.

Socialist Party secretary Martine Aubry had made a pact with Strauss-Kahn that she would not stand against him. She declared her candidacy earlier this week, and yesterday would not be drawn on the political consequences of a potential comeback. She limited herself to expressing her "great joy" at the news. New Socialist Party favourite François Hollande also welcomed the news, saying he hoped all charges would be dropped.

Socialist MP Jean-Marie Le Guen was already rejoicing at DSK's "rehabilitation" yesterday and hailing "the end of a nightmare". "All those who speculated about the end to his political career must now reckon with a man who will soon be free, and who will be able to look the French people in the eyes," he said.

There were calls for a comeback from the right, too. Jean-Louis Borloo, a possible presidential candidate for the Radical Party, said he could not see anything that would stop Strauss-Kahn making a comeback if he wanted to.

The US justice system and media have been strongly criticised in France. The original strict bail conditions imposed on Strauss-Kahn were met with astonishment.The French daily Le Monde disapprovingly published pictures on its website of some of the New York Post's most inventive headlines of the last six weeks - "Frog Legs It", "Booty Gaul" and "Chez Perv".

Since the case started, a French journalist, Tristane Banon, has said she plans to press charges against Strauss-Kahn, who she claims tried to rape her nine years ago when she went to interview him.

Ségolène Royal, who lost to Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2007 elections, said calls for a suspension to the primaries were out of proportion.