Strauss-Kahn affair opens up French election

 Dominique Strauss-KahnEuropean finance ministers pressed ahead yesterday with the talks aimed at addressing the economic troubles of  Portugal and Greece despite the absence of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

However, the controversy surrounding Strauss-Kahn has cast a long shadow, leaving ministers deprived of the advice of a powerful and experienced European who has played a pivotal role on the global financial stage. 

A former French economy minister, Straus-Kahn was instrumental in the creation of the euro, and had the respect of the euro zone's most senior politicians and officials. 

In diplomatic circles he was expected to leave the IMF soon to run for president of France next year. 

Political observers say that the prospect that he might have now to  depart under a cloud raises concerns that the cosy arrangement under which a European gets to lead the fund was in doubt. 

Meanwhile, in France, sexual assault charges against the man tipped to be France's next president have thrown open the 2012 election, adding to president Nicolas Sarkozy's prospects of reelection. The incident has also deprived the French left of its new star candidate.

Even if Dominique Strauss-Kahn is eventually cleared of charges that include attempted rape, there will be few takers for him running as the Socialist Party's candidate in an April election that the left is determined to win after being in the opposition for 16 years.