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Far right's Le Pen pulls out of elections over fight with his daughter

The National Front founder has had a fierce public spat with his daughter Marine.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

JEAN-MARIE LE Pen, the founder of France’s National Front (FN), said today he was pulling out of regional elections after a fierce public spat with his daughter who now leads the far-right party.

The move promises to ease tensions both within the Le Pen family and the anti-European, anti-immigration FN, which has enjoyed considerable electoral success in recent years as Marine Le Pen seeks to clean up its racist and anti-Semitic image.

Gas chambers

Le Pen senior incurred the wrath of his daughter earlier this month by repeating an assertion that the Nazi gas chambers were a “detail of history.”

He then followed that up with a defence of France’s World War II leader Philippe Petain, who collaborated with the Nazis.

This appeared to be the last straw for Marine, who accused her father of committing “political suicide” and saying she would not support his standing in regional elections in December.

After days of sniping that have dominated the headlines in France, Le Pen senior appeared to fall on his sword today.

He told Figaro magazine he would not be standing in the southeast of France for the party even though “I think I was the best candidate for the National Front”.

Getting a dig in

But in stepping down, the 86-year-old appeared to get in another dig at his daughter.

Asked who should stand in his place, he anointed his granddaughter Marion Marechal-Le Pen, 25, a rising star in the party with social views considered more conservative than Marine’s.

If she accepts, I think she would head a very good list (of candidates). She is certainly the best.

“If I have to make the sacrifice for the future of the (FN) movement, it will not be me who has caused the damage,” he said, in an apparent reference to Marine.

‘Plunged into crisis’

Jean-Marie had previously said that he would not go quietly, accusing his daughter of “shooting herself in the foot.”

His anointed successor Marion has kept a studious silence on the squabbles although she did voice disagreement with her grandfather’s Holocaust comments.

While jettisoning Jean-Marie is likely to rile the party hardliners, it may also attract those disenchanted with the two main parties who had previously seen the veteran provocateur as an impassable barrier to voting FN.

In a poll published on Sunday, more than two-thirds (67 percent) of FN voters said they were in favour of Jean-Marie’s departure while 74 percent said they believed his media sorties were harming the party.

The party’s deputy, Florian Philippot, hailed what he described as a “wise” decision from Jean-Marie.

Under Marine Le Pen, the FN has enjoyed a series of election success, notably coming first in last year’s European elections.

- © AFP, 2015

Read: France’s far-right political dynasty in crisis after ‘gas chamber comments’

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