Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sarkozy keeps careful silence over Strauss-Kahn case

President Nicolas Sarkozy has kept up a carefully calculated silence at sex assault charges against former IMF chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, which rocked France and triggered a weeklong outpouring of grief and recrimination.

While Socialists have lamented the lightning downfall of the runaway favourite to win the 2012 presidential election; National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, has huffed that it was an accident waiting to happen.

He has also instructed his ministers to keep quiet about the charges by a New York hotel maid that Strauss-Kahn tried to rape her.

The exit of his toughest challenger for next year's election will not mean a re-election shoo-in for Sarkozy, one of France's least popular presidents, but it has already bumped up his support by a couple of points in polls.

That could be enough to help the conservative beat Le Pen into a runoff, something that was far from certain a few weeks ago. Resisting the temptation to weigh in on the case may also benefit Sarkozy further if it helps reverse a perception that he is impulsive and brash.

“This could correct his image a little, and give the impression he is not so reactive after all,” said analyst Jean-Daniel Levy at pollster Harris Interactive, of Sarkozy's lack of gloating at his rival's downfall.

Sarkozy is also refusing to confirm whether first lady, Carla Bruni, is expecting the couple's first child together, even after his father and a giggling Bruni's hiding of her belly have as good as confirmed she is.

A presidential birth could be a public relations coup for his election campaign, especially given the contrast to the charges against Strauss-Kahn, but not if he were to be seen playing it up ahead of the election in April.

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