France's far-right National Front (FN) party is facing controversy over its selection of candidates for next month's local elections, amid revelations that several aspiring councillors posted racist and homophobic comments online.

Some used social media to call for the "elimination" of Muslims, while others appeared to praise FN leader Marine Le Pen as Hitler's reincarnation, expressing the hope that she will "cleanse France", according to reports in the local press.

Chantal Clamer, FN's hopeful in the southern department of Pamiers, described Islam as "the bubonic plague of the 21st century", saying it has "to be fought, to be eliminated without hesitation by all possible means", in a Facebook posting last year.

She also lashed out against lesbians in an earlier message, reading: "These dirty butches are really ugly."

Clamer later defended herself claiming that the homophobic post was written by some youngsters who seized her mobile phone while spending the afternoon at her home.

"The one on Islam was an emotional reaction after watching the video of a young woman being beheaded in the middle of a street," she added speaking to La Depeche newspaper.

Asked about Clamer, Le Pen said only that the remarks were "extremely clumsy and reckless" but refused to exclude her from running. The matter was being investigated by Clamer's micro-party Siel, which is allied to FN.

Fabien Rouquette, FN candidate in the southern district of Narbonne, was also accused of Islamophobia for a 2014 Facebook posting that read: "Socialists, Communists and Muslims! Do earth a favour: kill yourself."

The message drew the applause of his running mate Michèle Boisset who commented: "Hihi! a beautiful dream". He later told Metronews "It was humour".

Always on Facebook, another Narbonne contender, Elie Quisefit, recommended the launch of hunting expeditions against Muslims.

"There are expeditions against wild boars, wolves and lynx … if we were to hunt Arabs instead we might even save France," he wrote last year.

Finally, Thierry Brésolin the party's stand-in candidate in Teil, near Avignon, was accused of posting online the photo of a swastika accompanied by a message comparing Le Pen to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

"Marine, you are the reincarnation of Hitler. You are going to cleanse France, we count on you," the message read. Brésolin later claimed he was not the author of the post as his Facebook account had been hacked.

Despite the torrent of racist remarks, FN has claimed the lead in a recent poll.

The Ifop poll commissioned by France's Le Figaro newspaper found that 30% backed the far-right party, while the conservative/centrist coalition between the UMP and the UDI gained 28% of preferences and the Socialists 20%.