Leading article: A problematic homecoming

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When Dominique Strauss-Kahn arrives home in France and to what he hopes will be a more normal life, he may not – as some other notable absentees have done – be returning to another country. But French politics have been changed by his absence, and cannot but be changed again by his presence.

Before his arrest, he was the favoured, though still undeclared, Socialist candidate for the French presidency, as the one politician who might be able to beat Nicolas Sarkozy. The charges against him in New York ended those ambitions, both because of their nature and because the list for the party's primary closed while he was away. What was seen as his political demise released the Socialist leader, Martine Aubry, from her pact with Mr Strauss-Kahn not to stand if he did; she is now closing on Francois Hollande to win the nomination.

Mr Strauss-Kahn and the party must now decide whether he will be an asset or a liability in the coming campaign. Voters seem split, both about how far he is discredited, if at all, and how far his undoubted expertise should be allowed to eclipse personal flaws. Were the Socialists to win the presidency, a return as prime minister could not be excluded.

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