The most common question being asked in Paris this weekend seemed to be: "Can he make a comeback?"
Indeed, the story that keeps on giving gave yet a little more Friday, with a stunning turnaround in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn saga that saw the former head of the International Monetary Fund released from house arrest and grave doubts raised about his accuser's character. Members of the Socialist Party, where Strauss-Kahn had been the shining star until his arrest on attempted-rape charges in May, applauded a New York court's decision.
Many came out with some form of "I told you so," but most were noncommittal on whether they would, in theory, allow a deadline extension for applications for the July 13 primary, where the Socialists will pick their leader.
Strauss-Kahn's next court appearance is due on July 18. Only then - if he is cleared - would he be able to present his candidature.
It was Francois Hollande, Strauss-Kahn's closest rival in the primary race, who seemed most accepting, telling Le Monde he had "no reservations against the idea to postpone the closing date for applications ... to late July or even late August." Hollande said he hoped "we would now see dropped all those charges that have weighed so heavily, so cruelly, on him."
It was left to Hollande's erstwhile partner, Segolene Royal, who lost to Nicolas Sarkozy in the last presidential election, to say it was "too precipitous" to say anything about Strauss-Kahn returning to the fray.
Another person seemingly less than enthusiastic about changing the calendar was acting party leader Martine Aubry, another top candidate to lead the party. "The news from the American press this morning gives me immense joy, as it does all Dominique's friends," she told France 2 TV. But she refused to answer questions about the consequences for the primary. Arnaud Montebourg, another candidate, was also cagey, saying he believed that the primary's terms and timing have no reason to change.
Sarkozy, who might see more fingers pointed at him as conspiracy theories are pondered, hasn't commented on the case. Jean Francois Cope, the secretary general of Sarkozy's UMP party, said it was only right to show "utmost restraint" about the latest developments.
Marine Le Pen, head of the National Front, said that while it seemed the U.S. justice system had shown "the truth about the victim," she didn't believe that her rival would return to the race anytime soon.
"Alas, I lost my best opponent," she told Europe 1 radio. Le Pen was alone in praising the U.S. justice system, as others once again registered their disappointment with the way things are done across the ocean.
Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe spoke of Strauss-Kahn's ordeal and said the new revelations "highlighted more than ever the fundamental importance of the presumption of innocence and respect for human dignity."
Former Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin told France 2 TV that if the case is dropped, Strauss-Kahn "was thrown to the wolves by the functioning of a [legal] system .... That leads me to believe that, in the end, we're not so bad off with our system in which an independent investigating magistrate leads a [neutral] inquiry to establish proof of guilt and innocence."
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