French frontrunner attacked with flour during speech

French frontrunner attacked with flour during speech

PARIS
French frontrunner attacked with flour during speech

Hollande was showered with flour during a speech in Paris after a woman in the audience threw a bag at him. AP Photo

French presidential frontrunner Francois Hollande was targeted in a flour-throwing attack Feb. 1 as he wrapped up a speech about housing problems.

The woman, who later identified herself to TV cameras as 45-year-old Claire Seguin, ran up to the podium where Socialist Francois Hollande stood to sign a “social contract” in favor of housing for all. Hollande, who has consistently led polls, well ahead of President Nicolas Sarkozy, remained calm throughout the incident, though his glasses, hair and suit were covered in white.

He was hustled off the stage, and when he spoke to reporters afterward, he stayed on point, discussing the importance of housing reform. Body guards who jumped in to protect Hollande also took a dusting.

The guards also immobilized Seguin and then carried her off the stage by her hands and feet. A police official later confirmed that she was carrying a kilogram of flour at the time and is in police custody. The guards who carried her off the stage later let her speak briefly to a few journalists before taking her away. She shouted into their cameras that she had been the victim of an unspecified injustice and that the Socialists were trying to kill her. She directed them to her blog.

On the blog, which includes an open letter to Sarkozy, Seguin describes being harassed by superiors when she was a teacher and claims that she is the victim of a concerted campaign to defame her and that her life has been threatened and her privacy violated. She says she has filed numerous legal complaints, but none has been acted on.

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, a spokeswoman for Hollande, told French television channel BFM that the incident was isolated and committed by a woman who appeared unstable. She said Hollande’s security would be gradually increased as the campaign progressed, as it would for all candidates. The election will be held in two rounds in April and May.

Meanwhile, Hollande has widened his lead over President Nicolas Sarkozy, a poll showed recently.
 The opinion poll published by IFOP/Fiducial showed Hollande extended his lead for the first election round on April 22 to 6.5 percentage points from 4 points two weeks ago, with 31 percent support against 24.5 percent for Sarkozy.

 It found Hollande could win a second-round runoff on May 6 with 58 percent versus 42 percent for Sarkozy, an increase of two percentage points for Hollande versus two weeks ago.
 Hollande stepped up his campaign last week with his first big rally and unveiled concrete details of his programme. That raised the pressure on Sarkozy, who is waiting until close to a March 16 deadline to officially declare his re-election bid.

Compiled from AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.

Francois Hollande, Sarkozy, France, election