The mayor of a town in western France says he is stepping down after “a criminal fire” at his home a month ago.
The blaze at the home of Yannick Morez - mayor of Saint-Brevin-les-Pins west of Nantes - destroyed two cars and damaged his property.
It came amid tensions over moves to relocate an asylum seekers’ centre (Centre d'accueil de demandeurs d'asile, Cada) to a nearby school.
His resignation prompted Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne to say her government will move to “better protect” officials.
Yannick Morez démissionne de son poste de maire de Saint-Brévin (Loire-Atlantique, 15.000 habitants). Harcelé par l'extrême-droite à cause d'un projet de centre d'accueil pour demandeurs d'asile dans sa commune, il a vu sa maison et ses deux voitures incendiées en mars dernier.... pic.twitter.com/fDZszGmdhC— Jérôme Godefroy (@jeromegodefroy) May 10, 2023
Mr Morez was in favour of the asylum seekers’ centre. Among its opponents were supporters of the far-right former presidential candidate, Eric Zemmour. A few weeks ago, Mr Morez told AFP news agency that he had found himself “in the middle of a battle that is bigger than me” and a “political situation” driven by “external” forces.
Mr Morez wrote that he was stepping down for “personal reasons, notably due to a criminal fire perpetrated at my home, and with no support from the state, and after long discussions with my family.
“I have total confidence in my team…which is united and puts all its force and desire into honouring its commitments, and which will continue to work in service for our town and its residents.”
He said that after 15 years as part of the council - and six as mayor - he was “leaving with confidence in the future”.
‘Very shocking extremism’
The prime minister said: “That this has happened is very shocking and I would like to reassure the mayor that he has my support.”
Speaking from an official visit to Saint-Denis in La Réunion, she added that Dominique Faure, the minister in charge of regional and local authorities (collectivités territoriales), had been in touch with Mr Morez.
“This shows our willingness to better protect mayors and respond more effectively when there are threats,” she said.
She added: “With [Interior Minister] Gérald Darmanin and Dominique Faure, we will continue to strengthen our action to intervene earlier, to support mayors…and better accompany them faced with the violence to which they can sometimes fall victim.”
She said the arson showed that “extremism is rising in our country”.
President Emmanuel Macron has also denounced the attacks on Mr Morez and his family, calling them “undignified”. Writing on Twitter, he said he offered his “full support, and that of the nation” to the mayor.
Les attaques contre Yannick Morez, maire de Saint-Brevin-les-Pins, et contre sa famille, sont indignes. À cet élu de la République, à son épouse et ses enfants, je redis ma solidarité et celle de la Nation.— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) May 11, 2023