France’s far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has promised to bring law and order back to the country’s “Talibanised” and drug-riddled estates, as she launched her 2022 election campaign.
Ms Le Pen is seen as the main contender to incumbent Emmanuel Macron, who she described as “arrogant”. The latter came to power - defeating Ms Le Pen - on a centrist vision, but is thought to have moved gradually to the right in recent times.
“There will be no place in France where the law does not apply,” she told members of her National Rally party. “We will eradicate gangs and mafias and all those, Islamists or not, who want to impose rules and ways of life that are not ours.”
Ms Le Pen said she would be a “president of French freedoms” and blamed Mr Macron for bringing in “a society of surveillance and policing,” referring to some of his Covid-related restrictions, such as vaccine passes.
“The government has deepened a divide between two Frances, either by design or by its method [of governing], as if there weren’t enough splits in the country,” she said.
Mr Macron has yet to confirm he will seek a second term but is widely expected to run again.
Polls suggest he and Ms Le Pen would top the first round of voting in April and that Mr Macron would then beat Le Pen in the run-off, in a repeat of 2017.
Ms Le Pen, running in her third presidential election, has long campaigned against extremism and what she considers excess immigration.
But Mr Macron has also cracked down on what he has described as “Islamist separatism,” particularly after a wave of attacks in France attributed to extremists.
Mr Macron has received a key endorsement from the right, from his former prime minister Edouard Philippe.
“My support for the president of the republic will be total in 2022,” Mr Philippe told TF1 television on Sunday evening.
The socialist mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, also launched her campaign.
Ms Hidalgo, 62, mayor of the capital city since 2014, is the favourite to win the Socialist Party nomination. She launched her candidacy in the north-western city of Rouen.
“I want all children in France to have the same opportunities I had,” she said.
Ms Hidalgo is the daughter of Spanish immigrants who fled their country in search of freedom during dictator Francisco Franco’s rule.