Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of France's far-right Front National (FN), has suggested the deadly virus Ebola could solve the global "population explosion" and by extension Europe's "immigration problem".
At a cocktail party on Tuesday before an election rally in Marseilles, where a substantial minority of the population is of North African origin, Le Pen spoke of the "demographic explosion" in the world.
"Monseigneur Ebola could sort that out in three months," he said in front of journalists.
Later, addressing supporters, Le Pen, 85, said he feared the French population risked being "replaced ... by immigrants".
"In our country and in all Europe, we have known a cataclysmic phenomenon - a migratory invasion that … we are seeing only the beginning of today."
The FN is leading the polls in France ahead of Sunday's election to the European Parliament
Le Pen, who is contesting the southeastern seat, added: "This massive immigration risks producing a real replacement of populations if we don't arrive in power soon enough to put an end to the politics of decadence that has been followed for decades." He said religion added an "aggravating factor" to this problem because many immigrants were Muslim and Islam had a "conquering vocation ... and even more conquering when it feels strong and they feel numerous".
Le Pen was followed on stage by his daughter Marine, who is party president.
She continued with the twin pillars of the party's manifesto: its anti-immigration and anti-Europe agenda. "That's enough. We wish to become masters in our own home once again," she told the audience.
On Wednesday, the elder Le Pen said his Ebola comment was merely an "observation". Ebola was a terrible disease that "like nuclear wars" could "modify a demographic evolution that is in itself catastrophic", he said.
Opinion polls have suggested that the FN could score between 23 per cent and 25 per cent of the vote in France on Sunday.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse