The leader of France’s rightwing Front National (FN), Marine Le Pen, has announced she would hold a referendum to reintroduce the death penalty if she wins France’s 2017 presidential election.
“I personally believe that the death penalty should exist in our legal arsenal,” Le Pen told television channel France 2.
“I always said that I would offer French citizens the possibility to express themselves on the topic through a referendum,” she added.
The announcement followed comments regarding “Islamic fundamentalism,” which she said “causes thousands of deaths every day worldwide.”
Le Pen further said she would speak to French President Francois Hollande about radical Islam and measures needed to protect “the countrymen.”
The last execution occurred in France in 1977. Capital punishment was officially abolished in 1981, although 62 percent of the French population supported it at the time, according to a poll conducted by TNS Sofres. Support for the death penalty, however, has subsequently dropped off.
Following Wednesday’s deadly attack on the office of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Le Pen made a passionate speech against what she called an “odious ideology.”
“We must not be scared of saying the words: this is a terrorist attack carried out in the name of radical Islam,” Miss Le Pen said.
“Time is up for denial and hypocrisy,” she continued. “The absolute rejection of Islamic fundamentalism must be proclaimed loudly and clearly.”
Critics have accused Le Pen of ratcheting up anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments for political purposes.
Tensions are running high across France following Wednesday’s attack, which left 10 journalists and two police officers dead. Several Muslim places of worship have been the target of attack since Wednesday night. Following reports of an attack on a kebab shop in the Eastern French town of Villefranche on Thursday, four training grenades were thrown into the courtyard of a mosque in the French city of Le Mans. One of the grenades exploded, but no injuries were reported. A gunshot was also reported overnight, with the bullet hitting the mosque.
An assailant also opened fire near a Muslim prayer room in the Port-la-Nouvelle district near Narbonne in southern France on Wednesday night. The door to the room was damaged and a window was broken, but no injuries were reported in the attack. The local prosecutor told AFP the room was empty at the time of the attack.
An investigation into the incident is currently underway.
France is home to Europe’s largest Muslim population, with nearly five million people practicing Islam out of a population of roughly 65 million. President Hollande has called for national unity following the tragedy.
As the president of FN, Le Pen has vowed to drastically curb immigration if elected president.
According to the latest opinion polls, if France were to hold its presidential election today, Le Pen would lead in the first round.
The French presidential election is set to be held in April and May of 2017.