Dominique Strauss-Kahn: The thunderbolt

Dominique Strauss-Kahn leaves court in New York with his wife Anne Sinclair (1 July 2011) Image copyright AP
Image caption If the case is thrown out, Dominique Strauss-Kahn may yet have a political future in France

French politics has been thrown wide open after a New York judge lifted the bail conditions against Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

"It's a thunderbolt - but in the opposite direction this time," said Socialist former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

Here in Paris there is huge anticipation. The man who had been written out of the script for next year's presidential elections is potentially back in the running.

The New York Judge Michael Obus, however, told the courtroom: "The case is not over."

But in political circles Mr Strauss-Kahn is once again being treated as a potential candidate. Many of the big guns in the French Socialist party lined up to praise him and to welcome him back as their standard bearer.

The deadline for applying for the party nomination is 13 July. The former party leader Francois Hollande said he was not averse to the closing date for nominations being extended.

They appear prepared to wait until DSK's next court appearance on 18 July in the expectation that the case will be dropped and he will be free to return to France.

The Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry - who is a candidate - spoke of her "immense joy" at the news and said she hoped it would end his "nightmare".

Lingering doubt

A former Socialist minister, Jack Lang, said "his presence alongside us would be decisive for our success in the presidential election".

This reflects the lack of confidence that the Socialist Party has in their current crop of candidates. One of them, Segolene Royal, was far more cautious about DSK's future. "It is urgent", she said, "that the truth come out". She questioned whether he would want to return to politics.

"In human terms, that's not likely to be one of his priorities."

Dominique Strauss-Kahn will attract some sympathy if the case is dropped. Many French people were outraged at the perp walk when, cuffed and unshaven, he was paraded before the cameras. Although, it should be pointed out that it was New York prosecutors who unearthed problems with the maid's credibility.

But for some there will be lingering doubts. Mr Strauss-Kahn had the reputation before the incident in New York as the "Great Seducer".

Some in the Socialist Party will question whether he can go through a long, gruelling campaign without further questions about his relationships with women. Character will certainly be an issue.

Others say that the "woman issue" will have been dealt with. And his political opponents may be careful not to go after him without risking criticism that they are persecuting a man who has endured humiliation in the United States.

What is unknown will be Mr Strauss-Kahn's appetite for the political fight. Those who know him say that he will relish the narrative of going from facing 25 years in an American jail to fighting to inhabit the Elysee Palace.

For some in France the collapse of the case - if it happened - would confirm in their minds that he was the victim of some kind of conspiracy.

For the moment, the man himself will only speak when he is back in France, his lawyer said.

Potentially, French politics once again has been turned on its head, with President Nicolas Sarkozy having to face the man he feared most - the man with a successful record of running the IMF.