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French presidential candidate Hollande turns down police protection

Reuters/Regis Duvignau

The Socialist candidate for the French presidency, François Hollande, has turned down an offer of police protection at the start of his election campaign, fearing leaks to the camp of President Nicolas Sarkozy.

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As is usual at the start of a French presidential campaign, the police gave Hollande a list of officers from a special brigade charged with looking after public figures and asked him to choose two bodyguards for the beginning of the campaign.

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But Hollande, who won the Socialist Party’s primary election earlier this month, rejected all 15 names, preferring to be protected by party activists until his campaign has identified police officers it deems trustworthy.

“It’s about protecting the candidate’s security but also the confidentiality of his actions, what he says and his campaign,” Pierre Moscovici, who ran Hollande’s campaign during the primary told Le Monde newspaper.

Other Hollande supporters, speaking anonymously, were blunter. They claimed that all the officers on it were either members of unions sympathetic to the Sarkozy government or appear to have become close to ministers they have guarded in the past.

They fear that Sarkozy, who is expected to stand for reelection although he has not yet officially declared, will receive inside information on the campaign – a fear that is boosted by recent allegations that ministers used police and security services to spy on journalists and other individuals.

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The Hollande campaign does intend to accept police protection by mid-November but only after having done its own checks with unions judged sympathetic to the left and choosing police officers it considers acceptable.

Veterans of Ségolène Royal’s 2007 campaign for the presidency recall that they faced the same dilemma then. At the time the right-wing candidate, Sarkozy, was interior minister.

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