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14 Feb, 2020 10:11

Le Kompromat? Macron’s candidate for Paris mayor ends race amid sexting scandal as controversial Russian shock artist leaks tapes

Le Kompromat? Macron’s candidate for Paris mayor ends race amid sexting scandal as controversial Russian shock artist leaks tapes

The Paris mayoral candidate picked by President Macron has ended his campaign a month before the election, following a sex scandal. His run was torpedoed by a self-exiled Russian shock artist, who released the compromising tapes.

Benjamin Griveaux, who ran for the top office in France’s capital with Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche party, announced he was withdrawing his candidacy. He said he decided to pull out of the race to protect himself and his family from further below-the-belt attacks.

“For over a year, my family and I have been subjected to defamatory statements, lies, anonymous attacks, exposure of secret private conversations, as well as death threats,” the 42-year-old married father of three said in a short statement. He added that the publication of sex tapes, which he considered an “ignoble attack” on his private life, was the last straw.

The now ex-candidate would neither confirm nor deny the authenticity of the materials leaked on Tuesday. His announcement comes after an emergency meeting with President Macron on Wednesday and just a month before municipal elections in France, which are scheduled for March 15 and 22. Even before the sex scandal his campaign was floundering, with Griveaux slumping in the polls and projected to take third place in first round of the vote.

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French politicians, including Griveaux’s rivals, rallied to express support to the man and dismay over the indignant way that ended his mayoral bid. Cedric Villani, the eccentric mathematician-turned-politician, who split from Macron’s party to run against Griveaux as an independent, said the “outrageous attack” posed “a serious threat for our democracy.”

Left-wing ex-presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon said a politician’s life should not fall victim to voyeurism while a spokesman for the right-wing National Rally party said nobody expected people running for public offices to be saints.

The attack that put an end to Griveaux’s run was launched by Pyotr Pavlensky, a controversial Russian artist who has been living in France since 2017 after claiming he had to flee his home country due to political persecution. He accused Griveaux of being a hypocrite, running on a platform of family values while privately considering marriage a “prison” and sending intimate pictures to young women.

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The accusations were backed by what were claimed to be conversations between the politician and an unidentified female, complete with sexually explicit images. There is no evidence that Griveaux was actually involved. Pavlensky claimed he obtained the materials from an unnamed source, who had a relationship with the politician.

Pavlensky gained international notoriety thanks to a series of politically charged performances in Russia, which involved harming himself. During his big debut in 2012 he sewed his mouth shut in a gesture of support for fellow anti-government activists Pussy Riot. Another performance involved him getting naked and nailing his scrotum to the pavement of the Red Square.

The artist fled Russia after he and his partner were accused of sexually assaulting a woman, an allegation that he insisted was a fabrication. The French authorities granted him political asylum – but were less welcoming of his political performances.

In October 2017 he set the doors to the Bank of France on fire to protest against “tyranny” and encourage a new revolution. He was arrested and spent more than a year in pre-trial detention before being sentenced to three years suspended and a fine, which he reportedly proclaimed he would never pay.

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