Row over Nazi gas chambers forces Le Pen Snr to step aside
Published 14/04/2015 | 02:30
Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the Front National (FN), has pulled out of regional elections after a bitter public row with his daughter who now leads the French far-Right party.
The 86-year old infuriated his daughter, Marine, last week by reiterating his claim that the Nazi gas chambers were a "detail of history" before going on to praise Field Marshal Philippe Petain, the French wartime leader who collaborated with the Nazis.
This appeared to be the last straw for the 46-year-old FN leader, who accused her father of committing "political suicide" and said she opposed his candidacy in regional elections.
She has been trying to persuade him to retire both from the December regional polls and from politics altogether.
Other top party figures called on Mr Le Pen to also resign from his post as honorary party chairman. His role is to be discussed at a meeting of FN leaders on Friday.
Le Pen père, an MEP, appeared to fall on his sword yesterday, telling 'Figaro' magazine he would not be standing in the southeastern Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of France in December, "even though I think I'm the best candidate for the Front National".
"If I must make a sacrifice for the future of the movement, I would not be the one to cause it damage," said the former paratrooper.
He told 'Figaro' that he was disappointed by his daughter and would not quit politics, showing that the family feud that could emerge as a threat to the FN's bid for power is not necessarily over.
He said party was at risk of being "dangerously weakened" over what he called a severe but unjustified crisis over his comments.
However, in stepping down, Mr Le Pen appeared to take aim at his daughter, who has been trying to "detoxify" the party's racist and anti-Semitic image to widen her electoral appeal.
Asked by the 'Figaro' who should stand in his place, he anointed his granddaughter Marion Marechal-Le Pen (25), a rising star considered more socially conservative than her aunt; unlike Marine, she publicly criticised a 2013 law legalising same-sex marriage.
"If she accepts, I think she would head a very good list (of candidates). She is certainly the best, I am not going to say after me, but she is," Mr Le Pen told the magazine.
The 25-year-old confirmed shortly after that she would seek the party's nomination.
While considered close to her grandfather, she has criticised his latest World War Two comments, a first for her, and told 'La Provence' daily on Monday: "I've never been at the beck and call of my grandfather."
FN deputy leader Florian Philippot, a close ally of Marine Le Pen who last week even suggested her father could be thrown out of the party, told iTele his move was "a wise decision".
Opinion polls see Marine Le Pen as likely to make it to the second round of the 2017 presidential election but not win.
How she handles relations with her father will be one of the key factors to how her party fares in 2017.
Asked if he felt betrayed by his daughter, Le Pen, who remains the Front's honorary president and will retain his seat in the European Parliament, told 'Figaro': "Betrayed would be going a bit far, but let's say I'm disappointed."
While her father still has appeal among some grassroots FN members, he is also seen as hampering Marine Le Pen's bid to become more mainstream.
Last week he made it clear he would not "go along" with being thrown out of the party altogether, saying that it would "implode" if he was kicked out.
In the original interview, Le Pen also made controversial comments about Manuel Valls, France's Catalan-born prime minister, who became a French national at the age of 20.
He said: "Valls has been French for 30 years. I've been French for a thousand years. What are Valls's real ties to France?
"Has this immigrant changed dramatically?"
(© Daily Telegraph, London)