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National Front patriarch Le Pen urges daughter to change name

The founder of the French National Front Jean-Marie Le Pen has said he was "ashamed" that his daughter Marine still carries his last name. The family feud threatens to split the far-right party after his suspension.

The right-wing veteran and honorary president of National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, said Tuesday he would not back his daughter and party leader Marine in her 2017 presidential bid.

The 86-year old former paratrooper was

suspended by the party executive committee Monday

over inflammatory Holocaust remarks, prompting him to accuse Marine of "betrayal."

"If such moral principles should govern the French state, that would be scandalous," he said in an interview.

Speaking for Europe 1 radio, Jean-Marie also said that he is "ashamed" that his daughter shares his last name.

"I hope she will drop it as soon as possible. She could do so by marrying her partner ... or someone else," he said.

Saving 'white world'

Frankreich Jean-Marie Le Pen

Jean-Marie Le Pen

Marine Le Pen responded by decrying the "excessiveness" of her father's remarks and saying that they underscored the necessity of suspending him from the party.

The family dispute

blew open last month

after the elder Le Pen stated once more that the Nazi gas chambers were a "detail" of history and claimed that France has to get along with Russia to save the "white world."

This stirred criticism from top party leaders, with Marine calling it "political suicide."

Although National Front remains anti-immigration and anti-EU, the party has softened its positions considerably after Jean-Marie handed the reins of power to his daughter in 2011. During recent years, the party has enjoyed a surge in popularity and several election victories, with Marine Le Pen eyeing the French top office.

Polls in France currently suggest that the younger Le Pen has a chance of reaching the runoff round in 2017's presidential elections, owing to the tumbling popularity and approval ratings of the ruling center-left Socialists.

Her father also reached the final stage of the election in 2002 but suffered a massive defeat to the mainstream challenger.

'Nuisance'

A National Front expert Sylvain Crepon said there was "affection" for Jean-Marie among party members but even those who were very attached to him "have long thought he goes a bit far".

He said while Le Pen could still be a "media nuisance ... he risks isolating himself completely and ending looking like a rambling old man."

On Sunday, Marine said that she has the "feeling that (her father) can't stand that the National Front continues to exist when he no longer heads it."

The National Front members are set to meet within the next three months to decide whether to strip the founder of his title of lifetime honorary president. Some analysts suggest that Marine may use this opportunity to change the name of the party and make a clean break with its radical image.

dj/jil (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)

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