Fall-out from the Strauss-Kahn flame-out

Dominique Strauss-Kahn's departure from the world's top table - if that is what happened this weekend - is a seismic event for the IMF and a major development for French presidential politics. But the implications for the eurozone crisis are probably being overdone.

Yes, Mr Strauss-Kahn has been a charismatic and persuasive chief of the IMF, at a time when both qualities were desperately needed in European official circles - and not much in evidence. That was especially true last May, when - along with the US Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, he played a key role in persuading eurozone leaders that they needed to add a few zeros to their plans for a euro-wide rescue fund.

One year on, his departure would prevent him "brokering" a deal between France and Germany on how and how often to bail out Greece and other countries in crisis - and, crucially, what price, if any, private investors in these economies will be forced to pay. (For more on the various possibilities, see my post on this last week.)

But was there really a possibility that Mr Strauss-Kahn would have played this role? Do we really think President Sarkozy would have wanted his arch-rival in the presidential race to get the credit for solving the euro crisis? I doubt it. And so do many officials close to President Sarkozy.

If Mr Strauss-Kahn is out of the way, the way is cleared for Mr Sarkozy to be the leader who "saved" the euro, just as he has lately wanted to be the leader who "saved" Libya. For good or ill, most expect him to make full use of that opportunity.

There may be no deal to be done, no long-term solution to be reached right now, with Europe's politics and economics seemingly headed in different directions. But as a matter of sheer politics, the French president does now have much greater incentive to look for one in his negotiations with the German chancellor and other leaders in the coming days and weeks.

The IMF team in Athens, that will end up determining whether and when Greece gets another support package, are perfectly capable of coming up with a plan without Mr Strauss-Kahn. The number two at the IMF, John Lipsky, is a respected technocrat. He won't fill the vacuum left by Mr Strauss-Kahn. But there are plenty of grown-ups at the institution who can keep the show on the road until a successor is found (assuming that is where this is heading).

The search for a new IMF chief has been brought forward a few months. But the fund was expecting Mr Strauss-Kahn to resign soon anyway to get on the campaign trail in France. More important, the search for a new French president has been turned on its head. But my sense is that the search for a solution to the eurozone crisis will not be greatly affected by this extraordinary turn of events. In fact, if you're sitting in Portugal or Greece, the political fall-out from the Strauss-Kahn drama could do you more good than harm.