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France's Sarkozy, rivals jockey ahead of 2012 race

 French Socialist Party secretary general and Lille mayor Martine Aubry is seen during the launching of the Lille marathon, in the town of Lille, Nort...
 France's Socialist leader Martine Aubry reacts during a press conference in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 2011. Aubry is urging party faithful to stay unit...
 France's Socialist leader Martine Aubry reacts during a press conference in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 2011. Aubry is urging party faithful to stay unit...
 Former French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius arrives at a party meeting,  in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 2011. Party leader Martine Aubry is urging party ...
 France's Socialist leader Martine Aubry reacts during a press conference in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 2011. Aubry is urging party faithful to stay unit...
 French President Nicolas Sarkozy signs autographs as he arrives at a meeting on employment in Nancy, eastern France, Tuesday May 17, 2011. The Bild n...
 France's Socialist leader Martine Aubry reacts during a press conference in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 2011. Aubry is urging party faithful to stay unit...
 France's Socialist leader Martine Aubry reacts during a press conference in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 2011. Aubry is urging party faithful to stay unit...
  Francois Hollande, center, one of France's Socialist contenders for party presidential candidate, arrives for a party meeting in Paris, Tuesday May,...
 French President Nicolas Sarkozy shakes hand with wellwishers as he arrives at a  meeting on employment in Nancy, eastern France, Tuesday May 17, 201...
  Francois Hollande, one of France's Socialist contenders for party presidential candidate, arrives for a party meeting in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 201...
 Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, a close ally of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, arrives for a party meeting in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 2011. Party leader Martine...
 Segolene Royal, center, one of France's Socialist contenders for party presidential candidate, arrives for a party meeting in Paris, Tuesday May, 17,...
 France's Socialist leader Martine Aubry reacts during a press conference in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 2011. Aubry is urging party faithful to stay unit...
 Former French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius arrives at a party meeting,  in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 2011. Party leader Martine Aubry is urging party ...
 A woman picks up a copy of a newspaper headlining on IMF head arrest at a news stand in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 2011. International Monetary Fund chi...
 A man looks newspapers headlining on IMF head arrest at a news stand in Paris, Tuesday May 17, 2011. Allegations of sexual assault in a New York hote...
 A man reads the French newspaper "Liberation" wich the headline is "K.O", in Paris, Tuesday May 17, 2011. Allegations of sexual assault in a New York...

France Politics

French Socialist Party secretary general and Lille mayor Martine Aubry is seen during the launching of the Lille marathon, in the town of Lille, Nort...

France IMF Head Assault

France's Socialist leader Martine Aubry reacts during a press conference in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 2011. Aubry is urging party faithful to stay unit...

France IMF Head Assault

France's Socialist leader Martine Aubry reacts during a press conference in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 2011. Aubry is urging party faithful to stay unit...

France IMF Head Assault

Former French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius arrives at a party meeting, in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 2011. Party leader Martine Aubry is urging party ...

France IMF Head Assault

France's Socialist leader Martine Aubry reacts during a press conference in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 2011. Aubry is urging party faithful to stay unit...

France Sarkozy

French President Nicolas Sarkozy signs autographs as he arrives at a meeting on employment in Nancy, eastern France, Tuesday May 17, 2011. The Bild n...

France IMF Head Assault

France's Socialist leader Martine Aubry reacts during a press conference in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 2011. Aubry is urging party faithful to stay unit...

France IMF Head Assault

France's Socialist leader Martine Aubry reacts during a press conference in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 2011. Aubry is urging party faithful to stay unit...

France IMF Head Assault

Francois Hollande, center, one of France's Socialist contenders for party presidential candidate, arrives for a party meeting in Paris, Tuesday May,...

France Sarkozy

French President Nicolas Sarkozy shakes hand with wellwishers as he arrives at a meeting on employment in Nancy, eastern France, Tuesday May 17, 201...

France IMF Head Assault

Francois Hollande, one of France's Socialist contenders for party presidential candidate, arrives for a party meeting in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 201...

France IMF Head Assault

Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, a close ally of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, arrives for a party meeting in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 2011. Party leader Martine...

France IMF Head Assault

Segolene Royal, center, one of France's Socialist contenders for party presidential candidate, arrives for a party meeting in Paris, Tuesday May, 17,...

France IMF Head Assault

France's Socialist leader Martine Aubry reacts during a press conference in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 2011. Aubry is urging party faithful to stay unit...

France IMF Head Assault

Former French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius arrives at a party meeting, in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 2011. Party leader Martine Aubry is urging party ...

France IMF Head Assault

A woman picks up a copy of a newspaper headlining on IMF head arrest at a news stand in Paris, Tuesday May, 17, 2011. International Monetary Fund chi...

France IMF Head Assault

A man looks newspapers headlining on IMF head arrest at a news stand in Paris, Tuesday May 17, 2011. Allegations of sexual assault in a New York hote...

France IMF Head Assault

A man reads the French newspaper "Liberation" wich the headline is "K.O", in Paris, Tuesday May 17, 2011. Allegations of sexual assault in a New York...

French politicians of every stripe jockeyed for position _ Socialists, conservatives, the far-right _ as the strongest challenger to President Nicolas Sarkozy sat in a New York prison cell Tuesday charged with sex crimes.
Topping it all off, Sarkozy's father spilled the beans that a new baby would be appearing in France's presidential palace. The joyful news for Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy could be a significant boon for the unpopular incumbent ahead of France's presidential election next April.
Although leading French politicians were loath to say so out loud, Sarkozy could gain political leverage from the jailing of IMF chief and prominent Socialist Dominique Strauss-Kahn on charges of trying to rape a hotel maid in New York.
Sarkozy met privately with the leaders of his conservative UMP party Tuesday and urged them to stay discreet about Strauss-Kahn's case, according to French papers Le Figaro and Le Monde.
"In the current context, we should show sang-froid, courage, unity and I would add dignity. We should be a rock of solidity to lead the country," Sarkozy was quoted as saying.
At a Socialist party meeting, leader Martine Aubry urged party members to wait to hear Strauss-Kahn's side of the story before passing judgment and pledged Tuesday that the party would stick to its main objective: unseating Sarkozy.
"More than ever, we should be united and combative," she said on France-Info radio. The important thing is that "one of us wins in 2012."
The Socialists have long been fraught with divisions and ego battles, and are now struggling to come to grips with the grave allegations against a man who could have been their standard-bearer in 2012.
Aubry, seen as a party stalwart with little charisma, may seek the Socialist endorsement in primaries later this year. Some French commentators have dubbed her the "anti-DSK."
Pollsters, however, say Strauss-Kahn's arrest could heighten the political fortunes of Aubry's predecessor, Francois Hollande, who has been gaining in recent polls. He was the longtime partner of Segolene Royal, who Sarkozy beat for the presidency in 2007. Hollande and Royal split up after the last campaign, and she has out of favor among top party bosses since then.
The turmoil in the Socialists _ and potentially for Sarkozy too, because he backed Strauss-Kahn for the IMF post _ could also play into the hands of the National Front, France's resurgent far-right party.
"Unfortunately, the extreme right will be reinforced with the argument, "We always told you: They are all corrupt, they are all depraved,'" political analyst Dominique Moisi said. "That kind of anti-elite feeling is the basis for the National Front electorate."
France holds its presidential elections in two rounds: a first vote in April to winnow down an often-crowded field; then a decisive runoff two weeks later.
The IMF chief was jailed without bail after an arraignment Monday that shocked many in France, where it is illegal to broadcast images of suspects in handcuffs due to the presumption of innocence.
"K.O." screamed banner headlines Tuesday in France's Le Parisien and Liberation papers, with full-page photos of an unshaven Strauss-Kahn in the New York courtroom.
Meanwhile, the president's father, Pal Sarkozy, told Germany's top-selling newspaper Bild that the first family is expecting a baby. The president's office isn't commenting about reports the 43-year-old Bruni-Sarkozy is pregnant with the couple's first child together.
A baby could help voters better relate to a man seen as increasingly out of touch.
The Italian-born Bruni-Sarkozy was a model before becoming a singer-songwriter known for her soulful lyrics and wispy voice. She's also famous for her topsy-turvy romantic life, which included earlier relationships with rockers Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton.
She and Sarkozy, 56, married in early 2008. She has one son from an earlier relationship, and Sarkozy has three sons from his two previous marriages.
With no public word from Strauss-Kahn since the alleged attack, some French journalists went back over their notes: Left-leaning daily Liberation reported about a confidential April 28 meeting with him at a Paris cafe.
It said Strauss-Kahn had expressed concerns about possible low blows from Sarkozy ally Claude Gueant, the interior minister, and acknowledged three potential trouble spots for his presidential bid.
"Money, women and my Jewishness," Strauss-Kahn was quoted as saying. "Yes, I love women ... so what?"
He also reportedly recounted asking Sarkozy _ as the two stood next to each other at a urinal during an international summit _ to lay off his personal life.
Strauss-Kahn also reportedly hypothesized with journalists that a would-be accuser could claim that he "raped (a woman) in a parking lot and who someone would have promised (EURO)500,000 or (EURO)1 million ($750,000 to $1.4 million) to make up such a story," Liberation reported. The paper did not elaborate.
___
Jeffrey Schaeffer in Paris contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-01-17 12:20 GMT+08:00