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, Pecresse vowed to deploy a power hose, known by the brand name Karcher in France.
"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."
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".
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.