Questions, answers about Dominique Strauss-Kahn

/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

The arrest of French political figure Dominique Strauss-Kahn on sexual assault charges has raised a host of questions about the figure at the center of the scandal and his role at the International Monetary Fund. Here are a few answers to frequently asked questions:

Who is Dominique Strauss-Kahn?Dominique Strauss-Kahn, 62, is one of France’s leading political figures, a former Cabinet minister in two governments and a presumed Socialist candidate for president in the 2012 elections. Since 2007, he has been managing director of the International Monetary Fund, equivalent to its chief executive officer.

What is the significance of his arrest Sunday?The arrest of Strauss-Kahn has thrown the French political class and media into an uproar. Strauss-Kahn, known as “DSK” in France, was considered by many to be the strongest potential challenger to incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is up for re-election in April 2012. Even if Strauss-Kahn is eventually cleared of the charges against him, few now believe he can run as the Socialist Party candidate.

How is this different from other political sex scandals?Many prominent politicians have been tripped up or even destroyed by sex scandals. But few if any politicians of Strauss-Kahn’s stature have been accused of this type of violent attack. Former President Bill Clinton, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and current Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi all have been ensnared in allegations of tawdry sexual entanglements. But in virtually every case the sex has been consensual. "This being an attempted criminal rape is, I think, of an order of a different magnitude,” Georgetown University Professor Michele Swers told Reuters.

How is this story playing in France?The story of the arrest is dominating French news media, with leading newspapers declaring the episode fatal to his presidential aspirations. But Strauss-Kahn also has many defenders in France who have raised questions about police accounts of the incident and speculating about possible entrapment. Others have expressed shock at photos showing Strauss-Kahn with hands cuffed behind his back as he was led to a waiting car for his court appearance. “While the ‘perp walk’ is a New York police tradition,” it would be illegal in France owing to the presumption of innocence, .

What is the impact of on the IMF?For now, the IMF is being run by John Lipsky, an American and former vice chairman of JPMorgan. Lipsy was chief deputy to Strauss-Kahn, who resigned late on Wednesday.His arrest is certain to renew scrutiny on the IMF, a 187-nation organization that was established in the aftermath of World War II to stabilize international exchange rates and boost global development. It is funded by the member countries, mainly according to wealth, and loans money to countries unable to pay their debts.

Even before the arrest there were questions about the governance of the organization, which by tradition has been run by a European managing director and an American as second in command. The arrest also complicates delicate negotiations among European leaders and the IMF over whether and under what conditions to send more aid to troubled Greece. The case could also bring closer inspection of the IMF’s operations and its $900 million annual operating budget in light of the fact that Strauss-Kahn was staying in a $3,000-a-night suite at a New York hotel when the alleged assault took place.

The IMF, which paid Strauss-Kahn a $420,000 annual salary, said the managing director was not on official business in New York and will have to foot the hotel bill himself,

Lipsky said Thursday the IMF's board would being the process of choosing a new leader right away.