Conservative French presidential hopeful Xavier Bertrand has warned that France faces a real risk of civil war and gang violence as urban violence continues throughout the country.
Mr Bertrand, who currently serves as president of the Hauts-de-France Regional Council, spoke of the growing security problems in France as a guest of the programme Grand Jury on Sunday.
“There is today a real risk of civil war,” Bertrand said and added: “The president of the Republic must do everything to avoid it, and this requires above all the end of crimes not being punished. Any sanction must result in a sentence at the end.”
According to a report from the French newspaper Le Figaro, Bertrand said he was concerned with growing gang violence, saying: “You have gangs, gangs fighting with Kalashnikovs; wouldn’t that be a civil war?”
Bertrand went on to criticise writer Eric Zemmour, who has emerged as another serious presidential hopeful on the right, saying that Mr Zemmour was concerned with the “first names of children” and banning certain names, questioning what place those issues have in French political debate.
The remarks are related to Zemmour’s called for a ban on foreign-sounding names such as Mohammed or Kevin, according to a Times report last week.
The newspaper also noted that Zemmour is a critic of mass migration and has spoken about the “Great Replacement”, a theory of replacement migration touted by French author Renaud Camus, and labelled a “conspiracy theory” by critics. Despite this, polls have shown around a quarter of French believe elites are trying to “replace” them with migrants.
Bertrand, who is not officially a presidential candidate yet, also stated that he would oppose those who conflate radical Islam and regular practising Muslims, saying: “We talked about civil war, it can also come with this religious issue.”
A recent poll by Harris Interactive put Bertrand at 16 per cent, behind both President Emmanuel Macron (23 per cent) and populist National Rally leader Marine Le Pen (22 per cent), making it unlikely he would go into the second round run-off.
Urban violence, particularly that which targets police and other emergency services, has become a major problem during the Macron presidency.
In May, around 35,000 people took to the streets of Paris to protest anti-police violence just weeks after the murder of a police officer in Avignon.