French President Nicolas Sarkozy was forced to take shelter in a bar to escape from several hundreds of angry protesters who booed him as he campaigned in the Basque country in South West France. The riot police guarded the bar du Palais in Bayonne for more than an hour to protect Sarkozy from the protesters who threw eggs at the bar, shouting slogans against him.
Sarkozy later denounced the actions of the protesters as undemocratic and as the handiwork of hooligans who supported his rival socialist candidate Francois Hollande. Here, we are in France, on the territory of the French republic, and the president of the republic will go everywhere, and if that doesn't please a minority of troublemakers, too bad for them. Sarkozy told his supporters inside the bar.
But the embarrassing moments telecast by French television channels clearly depicted the rising unpopularity of the French President, who is seeking a second term in the April-May presidential elections.
The tensions mounted up in Bayonne as the supporters of both the candidates flooded the narrow streets shouting slogans, following Sarkozy in his campaign trail.
Later, speaking at a campaign event in Bayonne, Hollende said, without referring to the incident, that he condemned any action that involved physical and verbal abuse.
Sarkozy, who was once popular in the country for his flamboyance, has steadily lost the charisma that surrounded him, thanks to his controversial actions and statements that have negatively affected his credibility.
The President now trails behind his rival Hollande who is a socialist leader. The election is seen as a direct duel between a conservative Sarkozy and the socialist Hollande who favors high taxes on high earners to raise funds for education and investment, Reuters reports.
Weak economy and industrial slowdown are the prime election issues in the country as many of its steel plants have gone idle due to lack of demand. The slowdown in the steel industry has affected the jobs of thousands of workers.