French far-right leader Marine Le Pen backs retired generals’ hint at military uprising in France

             Marine LePen (52) has framed herself as a 'law and order' candidate

 Far-right leader Marine Le Pen said France is at risk of a “civil war” as she prepares to tackle President Emmanuel Macron in the 2022 election.

There are no signs of a coming conflict, but stoking tensions surrounding issues like economic inequality and a feeling the country is becoming less safe, serves Ms Le Pen.

She has been campaigning for office since the start of the year, trying to frame herself as the law-and-order candidate.

While Ms Le Pen has spoken repeatedly about clamping down on migration and the need to be tougher on Islamism, her latest comments are perhaps the most contentious yet.

After a group of retired generals last month hinted at the threat of a military uprising, another open letter to the president on Sunday warned of “chaos and violence.” The first letter was signed – the latest one wasn’t, though it was attributed to unidentified serving officers by the right-wing weekly that published it, Valeurs Actuelles.

Both times Ms Le Pen backed the authors, while insisting she isn’t calling for insurrection and urging those who supported them to join her movement.  

At a campaign event on Monday, Ms Le Pen said the latest letter offered “a lucid” assessment of the state of the country. “There’s always a risk of civil war,” she added.

Other French presidents have faced similar warnings from army officers in recent years but the threats never materialised. Officials from Mr Macron’s administration dismissed the letters as political manoeuvring.

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In 2018, during protests by the Yellow Vests, a grass-roots movement against a fuel tax, and after a spat between Mr Macron and the army Chief of Staff, some retired generals called for a military government.

Ms Le Pen is running close to Mr Macron in the polls, but the challenge for the 52-year-old nationalist in her third presidential campaign is to soften her profile enough to pick up more moderate voters while keeping her core electorate on her side.

With less than a year to go before the first round of presidential voting, Ms Le Pen is seeking to capitalise on concerns about security that Mr Macron has failed to quell despite a high-profile campaign to push back against Islamists responsible for a spate of violent attacks.

She tried to frame the first letter as referring mainly to the situation in the areas of social housing on the outskirts of many French cities which are typically racially diverse and economically deprived.

She also argued that the government itself has expressed concern over insecurity and pointed out that one former Macron minister had talked about the risk of a widening gap between such areas and the rest of the country.

The latest letter states that “the hatred of France and its history are becoming the norm” – an apparent reference to Mr Macron’s efforts to acknowledge the abuses of France’s colonial past – and used coded language to criticise Muslim communities that don’t integrate.

“This is a far-right political column,” Prime Minister Jean Castex said, calling the signatories to lift their anonymity.

The Republicans, France’s traditional right-wing party that has been squeezed between Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen, described it as a legitimate alarm bell. 

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