Royal suspends spokesman for slighting partner

18th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 18, 2007 (AFP) - Segolene Royal, the Socialist frontrunner for France's April presidential election, Thursday suspended one of her spokesman after he slighted her partner with a joke.

PARIS, Jan 18, 2007 (AFP) - Segolene Royal, the Socialist frontrunner for France's April presidential election, Thursday suspended one of her spokesman after he slighted her partner with a joke.

Arnaud Montebourg "is suspended from his functions, he will not be speaking in my name for a month," Royal told AFP.

Montebourg, responding to a presenter on a light-hearted television show Wednesday who asked what Royal's weaknesses were, said: "Segolene Royal has only one weak point -- her companion."

Royal and Francois Hollande, the leader of the Socialist Party, have been a couple for more than 25 years and have four children together.

The Socialist candidate was forced into a tight corner earlier this week after Hollande called for tax increases for people earning more than 4,000 euros (5,165 dollars) is she is elected.

His proposal was not coordinated with Royal's campaign headquarters and prompted a quick rebuttal from the candidate herself, who is anxious not to alienate France's middle classes.

Although Montebourg quickly told the TV presenter he was "having a laugh" with his answer, on Thursday he was forced to offer his resignation over a comment he said he been "unfortunately badly interpreted."

Royal, while saying that Montebourg's answer was "uncalled for", declined to accept the resignation but decided on the suspension.

"I want my spokesman to focus on serious issues," she said.

Royal has been thrown onto the defensive since the weekend acclamation of her centre-right rival Nicolas Sarkozy, with a new poll showing her ratings have fallen to 48 percent compared to 52 percent for Sarkozy.

The tax episode also snowballed into a row over Royal's own wealth, as she was forced to deny a false Internet rumour that she and Hollande had used a legal device to avoid paying wealth tax.

Hollande filed suit for libel over the false allegation, but it forced Royal to admit that she does pay wealth tax -- as do both Sarkozy and the far-right National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.

The tax row made front page news in France on Thursday, with experts warning that it could prove damaging for both main candidates' claim to speak for the middle and lower classes.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French News

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