France election: Poll favourite Hollande flour-bombed

The protester was tackled to the ground by security

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A woman has hurled flour at the Socialist candidate in the French presidential election, Francois Hollande, at a campaign stop in Paris.

Bodyguards leapt forward to protect the candidate and the assailant was restrained, then carried from the stage by her hands and feet.

Mr Hollande, covered in white, stayed calm during the incident.

It has also emerged that a bullet and threatening letters were sent to French Green presidential candidate Eva Joly.

The bullet was sent last month, campaign manager Stephane Sitbon-Gomez told the French news agency AFP after a report emerged on French radio.

"We get very nationalist letters from the extreme right," he added.

'Didn't do her credit'

Mr Hollande was speaking at La Porte de Versailles about housing when the woman hurled a bag of flour.

Named as Claire Seguin, from Lille and aged 45, she was heard shouting that she had been denied justice and was being "assassinated by Socialists in Lille", Le Figaro newspaper reports.

Start Quote

There are other ways of showing one's disagreement”

End Quote Francois Hollande French Socialist candidate

A message sent later from Mr Hollande's official Twitter account described the flour attack as an "isolated act which does its author no credit".

"There are other ways of showing one's disagreement. I remain ever open to dialogue."

The first round of the presidential election is to be held on 22 April.

Three opinion polls released this week suggest Mr Hollande will lead the conservative incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, into a second round on 6 May - by 31% to 23.5%, according to the latest survey, by polling group Ifop.

Marine Le Pen, the far-right National Front candidate, remains in third place (20% - Ifop) while in fourth is centrist candidate Francois Bayrou, whose support appears to have fallen slightly in recent weeks (12% - Ifop).

Placed fifth is the Left Party's Jean-Luc Melenchon (7.5% - Ifop), followed by Ms Joly with about 3% of the vote.

Mr Sarkozy's old rival, Dominique de Villepin is tipped to come seventh (1% - Ifop).

Death threats

Ms Joly, who has two bodyguards, was undeterred from campaigning for the election in April, her campaign manager said.

An autobiography of the candidate for the Europe Environment-Greens bloc, who is a former magistrate of Norwegian origin, is being published on Thursday.

"These are the unpleasant hazards of a campaign," Mr Sitbon-Gomez said.

"We don't want to publicise this business or make a drama of it, portraying Eva Joly as a victim.

Eva Joly speaking in Montreuil, near Paris, 28 January Eva Joly has two bodyguards

"We are continuing on our way."

Ms Joly, 68, has reportedly received death threats in the past, notably for her work as an investigative judge, when she handled a corruption case against the oil company Elf Aquitaine in the 1990s.

Born in Norway, she moved to France at the age of 20 as an au pair, marrying and pursuing a career in law.

She has maintained ties with Scandinavia, where she has campaigned against corruption.

In her autobiography, No Cheating, she writes: "I am a Viking going back 20 generations but part of me, of my dreams, struck a chord with France immediately."

After winning the French Green presidential ticket for the first time last summer, she travelled in October to Fukushima to see the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and nuclear disaster.

She returned "more convinced than ever" that "the nuclear risk was unacceptable".

Environmental politics in France has been dominated in recent years by the future of the country's lucrative nuclear power industry.

In November, the Greens sealed an electoral pact with the Socialists under which the Greens can count on winning more seats in parliament in return for supporting Francois Hollande in the expected second round of the presidential election.

Under the pact, nearly half of France's nuclear power stations will be closed by 2025.

President Sarkozy's government accused the Socialists of sacrificing the nuclear industry in return for short-term electoral advantage.

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