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France's Le Pen splits publicly with father

April 8, 2015

Her father's latest anti-Semitic comments were the last straw for the leader of the National Front. Marine Le Pen has decried her father's "vulgar provocations."

Marine Le Pen Europaparlament 02.07.2013
Image: Reuters

The bitter feud between the leader of France's far-right National Front (FN), Marine Le Pen, and her father, the founder of the party, came to the foreground on Wednesday as the younger Le Pen openly split from 86-year-old Jean-Marie.

Marine Le Pen, who has steered the party to electoral successes since taking over leadership of the party in 2011, accused her father of sabotaging FN's efforts to move into the political mainstream.

Jean-Marie, who was only last week defending a comment that Nazi gas chambers were a "detail of history," called France's Spanish-born Prime Minister "the immigrant" on Tuesday in an interview with right-wing magazine Rivarol. In the article, he also defends Philippe Petain, leader of the wartime government that cooperated with Hitler's Germany.

'Total and definitive' split

The younger Le Pen has tried to rid eurosceptic and the anti-immigrant party of its anti-Semitic image, and took grave exception to her father's latest comments. "Jean-Marie Le Pen seems to have descended into a strategy somewhere between scorched earth and political suicide," she said in a statement released by FN in her name.

"His status as honorary president does not give him the right to hijack the National Front with vulgar provocations seemingly designed to damage me but which unfortunately hit the whole movement," Marine Le Pen continued.

She also said she would oppose any attempt by her father to lead the party in the southern region of Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur in December local elections, where the party hopes to make gains after strong performances in town hall and departmental votes.

Frankreich Jean-Marie Le Pen
Despite stepping down from the top job, Jean-Marie Le Pen is still vocal about his opinionsImage: AFP/Getty Images/A. Jocard

Marine Le Pen had already distanced herself from her father after Jean-Marie made a quip last June about a French Jewish singer that included an implied reference to Nazi concentration camp crematoria, and Tuesday's interview appeared to be the last straw.

Deputy party leader Florian Philippot called it a "total and definitive" split.

Le Pen hopes to make a bid for the 2017 presidential election and hopes to widen FN's voter appeal. Although polls suggest she is unlikely to win, she could make it to the second-round run-off if her party continues to garner support at its current level.

es/jil (AFP, Reuters)