French presidential runner Pécresse to ‘power wash’ crime-hit areas

Right-wing French presidential candidate Valérie Pécresse has vowed to "power wash" the crime-ridden suburbs of France, echoing a controversial line from former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Valerie Pecresse on the campaign trail in France. Her 'tough-on-crime' rhetoric echoes that of former president Nicolas Sarkozy.
Valerie Pecresse on the campaign trail in France. Her 'tough-on-crime' rhetoric echoes that of former president Nicolas Sarkozy. (Photo by Pascal GUYOT / AFP)

French right-wing presidential candidate Valerie Pecresse promised Thursday to clean out crime-hit urban areas with a power hose as she sought to portray President Emmanuel Macron as soft on crime.

Reprising a controversial expression made famous by former president Nicolas Sarkozy, her political mentor, Pécresse vowed to deploy a power hose, known by the brand name Karcher in France.

READ MORE A history of colourful language from France’s leaders

“We need to get the Karcher out again because it has been stored away in the basement… for the last 10 years,” the Republicans party candidate told journalists in the southern town of Salon-de-Provence.

“We’re going to need to clean up these neighbourhoods that have become areas without laws and sometimes without France,” the head of the Paris region added.

“In my republic, there will not be areas where drug dealers have the upper hand.”

Security and immigration are among the leading concerns of voters ahead of presidential elections in April, behind worries about the cost of living and wages.

When asked if she could do better than the tough-talking Sarkozy during his 2007-2012 term in office, Pecresse replied: “I’m an Iron Lady. Ask people in my region.”

READ MORE Who’s who in the crowded field vying to unseat Macron in French presidential election

A new poll published on Wednesday evening by the Ifop-Fiducial survey group showed Macron extending his gains slightly over his challengers including Pecresse, as well as far-right rivals Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour.

It showed the 44-year-old centrist winning the first round, then beating Pecresse, his closest rival, by 55 percent to 45 percent in a second-round run-off vote.

Analysts warn that the election race remains highly uncertain, however, and Macron stirred up a major controversy on Tuesday evening after telling the Parisien newspaper that he wanted to “piss off” the unvaccinated with more restrictions.

The use of vulgar slang — which was seen as stigmatising the unvaccinated — was condemned by his opponents including Pecresse, who said it was “not the president’s job to divide the French people into good and bad people”.

READ MORE Macron’s vow to ‘piss off’ unvaxxed was deliberate and won’t hurt his election chances

Pecresse, who is bidding to be France’s first woman president, unveiled her campaign team this week, which included all her Republicans party rivals for the nomination.

The highest-ranking aides, including former EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, were notable for being all male and white.

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French Mediterranean resort’s far-right mayor bans burkinis

The far-right mayor of a resort on the Mediterranean coast of France has banned Muslim women from wearing burkinis in any of the town's swimming pools or beaches - despite previous court rulings saying that this is illegal.

French Mediterranean resort's far-right mayor bans burkinis

Three days after the southeastern city of Grenoble voted to allow swimmers to wear the full-cover swimsuit, the mayor of Fréjus – a member of Marine Le Pen’s far right Rassemblement National party – announced that he had decided to outlaw it.

“I learned with amazement of the authorisation given by the mayor of Grenoble to authorise the burkini in the swimming pools of its commune,” David Rachline wrote in a press release. 

READ ALSO OPINION: If France is to belong in a multicultural world it must accept its Muslim women

In fact, Grenoble updated its rules for municipal swimming pools to allow all bathers to wear any swimsuit – including burkinis – that protected them from the sun. It also permits women to swim topless if they wish and men to wear swim shorts instead of Speedos.

No-one seems to have had an issue with the swim shorts or the topless rule, but the addition of the ‘burkini’ to the list of accepted swimwear caused a major stir, with many lining up to condemn the move – including France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who ordered the local Préfet to review the decision, and later announced that he had asked for a legal challenge to the new regulations.

READ ALSO French government aims to block ‘burkinis’ in swimming pools

Rachline has pre-empted any decision from the government by acting unilaterally, trotting out the familiar refrain from the right that the decision in Grenoble goes against the “fundamental republican principle of secularism”.

“The express authorisation of the burkini is neither more nor less than an electoral provocation with a communitarian spring, implemented by the radical left,” he said.

“I see a culpable complacency with radical Islamism, for electoral purposes and in defiance of national cohesion.

“In order for things to be clearly stated, I have decided, as mayor of Fréjus, guarantor of public hygiene and safety, to modify the corresponding decrees to explicitly specify the ban on the burkini.”

His ban extends to both the town’s municipal swimming pools and its beaches, and he’s not the first southern mayor to attempt to ban burkinis on beaches.

In 2016, Cannes mayor David Lisnard issued an anti-burkini order on the beaches of his town.

The decision, which had also been taken in municipalities such as Villeneuve-Loubet (Alpes-Maritimes), was overturned after an opinion from the Conseil d’Etat, one of France’s highest legal authorities.