Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a far-left political leader in France and a likely high-profile candidate in next year’s presidential election, was pelted with flour at a protest on Saturday, days after President Emmanuel Macron was slapped in the face as he sought to shake hands with voters.
It is not uncommon for French political figures to be pelted with food: former presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande have been showered with flour, and Mr. Macron was pelted with eggs at least twice before he was elected president in 2017.
But the assault that targeted Mr. Mélenchon, the leader of the far-left party France Unbowed, in Paris came against the backdrop of renewed political tensions in France before regional elections next week, and broader concerns about violence before the presidential election, scheduled for May.
Mr. Mélenchon was speaking with journalists at a demonstration against the far-right in Paris on Saturday when an individual threw flour at him. No one was taken into custody.
On Tuesday, a far-right sympathizer slapped Mr. Macron in the face as the French leader was greeting a small crowd during a visit to southeastern France, drawing widespread condemnation across the political spectrum.
Mr. Macron received support from, among others, Mr. Mélenchon, normally one of Mr. Macron’s fiercest critics, and the far-right leader Marine Le Pen. “One can fight him politically, but one cannot be violent in any way against him,” Ms. Le Pen said.
A court on Thursday sentenced the 28-year-old man who slapped Mr. Macron, Damien Tarel, who said that Mr. Macron “represents the decline of our country,” to 18 months in prison, although he will likely serve only four.
On Friday, a former minister of Mr. Macron’s government and a candidate to the regional elections was also pelted with flour in the western city of Nantes. The candidate, François de Rugy, said he had filed a lawsuit against the woman who had assaulted him.
“Debate, always. Physical assaults, never,” Mr. de Rugy said on Twitter.
Although Mr. Mélenchon was the target on Saturday, he is among a group of politicians who have been blamed for the rising political tensions. Mr. Mélenchon drew widespread criticism this week after he predicted that France would be attacked during the campaign, but he did not provide any specific details, prompting ministers of Mr. Macron’s government to accuse him of fueling conspiracy theories.
“You’ll see, in the last weeks of the presidential campaign, we’ll have a serious incident or a murder,” Mr. Mélenchon said on French public television.
Mr. Mélenchon argued that a video in which a far-right YouTube personality fired at a mannequin representing a left-wing voter had prompted his comments. The video has since been deleted and Mr. Mélenchon has filed a lawsuit against the YouTuber, Ugo Gil Jimenez.
After the abuse on Saturday, a spokesman for Mr. Mélenchon’s party, David Guiraud, said on Twitter that the flour throwing was carried out by a man who he said was another far-right YouTube personality, but he did not identify him by name.
Mr. Mélenchon obtained nearly a fifth of the votes during the previous presidential election in 2017, ranking fourth after Mr. Macron, Ms. Marine Le Pen, and the right-wing candidate François Fillon.