Deputy speaker quits over sexual harassment claims

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Baupin, 53, resigned his post as a deputy speaker on Monday, saying he wanted to focus on fighting the allegations, which he vehemently denies. "They are lies, defamatory and have no basis in fact", said Baupin's lawyer, Emmanuel Pierrat.

PARIS French Finance Minister Michel Sapin admitted on Wednesday to behaving inappropriately towards a female journalist, days after a sex scandal forced the resignation of the vice-president of the lower house of parliament.

Sapin's admission came on the heels of a scandal that broke on Monday when eight women accused a deputy parliamentary speaker, Denis Baupin, of sexually harassing them over a number of years.

The four EELV party members made the allegations against the 41-year-old Baupin to French media. "He pushed me up against the wall while holding my chest and tried to kiss me".

"I think it's the end of the "omerta", said Camille Froidevaux-Metterie, who teaches political science at Reims University, using the Italian mafia's term for a code of silence. "Of course, I apologised sincerely to her", he said.

The encounter made Rousseau "very uneasy", she said.

Isabelle Attard, member of parliament for Calvados in Normandy, who left the EELV in 2013, said Mr Baupin had bombarded her with "almost daily provocative, salacious text messages" Similar allegations were made by two other local, green politicians, Elen Debost, assistant mayor of Le Mans, and Annie Lahmer, a green councillor in the western Paris suburbs. According to their version of events, Mr Sapin saw the journalist's underwear exposed, said "Ah, but what have we here?", and then twanged her knicker elastic.

She said she did not realise the scale of the problem until approached by the media, and that "a lot of people kept quiet so as not to harm his campaign".

In a statement published on his website, Baupin, who is one of six deputy speakers of parliament, rejected the accusations - some of which date back more than 15 years.

Strauss-Kahn, who was widely tipped to become France's next president, quit as head of the International Monetary Fund after his arrest on the basis of rape accusations by a NY hotel maid, with whom he reached a financial settlement after criminal charges were dropped.

None of the women had complained publicly before or reported the alleged harassment to the police.

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