A minister accused of sexually assaulting two women he once worked with has resigned in an apparent bid to spare the French government the kind of notoriety the opposition has faced since its leading man, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was charged with attempting to rape a Manhattan hotel maid.
A preliminary investigation was opened last week against George Tron, who served as a junior civil service minister, after two women alleged that he had attacked them between 2007 and 2010.
One of the women said she was inspired to come forward after a housekeeper at a luxury Manhattan hotel claimed she was sexually assaulted by Mr Strauss-Kahn, 62, a leading presidential hopeful in next year's elections for the rival Socialist Party. He resigned his post as International Monetary Fund chief after charges were filed in New York.
Mr Tron, 53, is a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative UMP party who joined the government just over a year ago.
Mr Tron's resignation appeared to be damage control as Mr Sarkozy primps his image for a likely re-election bid in the presidential race in a year's time. The popular Mr Strauss-Kahn had been expected to run as the Socialist candidate for president.
Both Mr Tron and Mr Strauss-Kahn have denied any wrongdoing.
No replacement for Mr Tron was immediately announced. It was widely reported that Budget Minister Francois Baroin would absorb Mr Tron's functions, seamlessly filling the void in a move to keep the spotlight off the government.
A statement from Prime Minister Francois Fillon's office noted Mr Tron has denied the allegations and praised him for acting in the "general interest".
Mr Tron's lawyer, Olivier Schnerb, has said the allegations against him are "unjust" and he has received instructions from his client to sue the women for "malicious slander".
He claims the women were both fired from their jobs at the town hall of Draveil, south of Paris - where Mr Tron has been mayor since 1995 - suggesting that they had a personal vendetta.