The far-right populist says she wants to contest next year's presidential election as a candidate for "all French people," while maintaining the support of her Rassemblement National party.
Marine Le Pen has "detoxified" her far-right party since she succeeded her outspoken father a decade ago
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Friday confirmed her departure as leader of the Rassemblement National (RN) or National Rally party as she seeks to broaden her support ahead of the presidential election in 2022.
"With a possibility of victory [in the presidential election] which has never been as important as today, I have to be the candidate of all those who want to lead the national struggle," she told Friday's issue of L'Incorrect magazine.
Le Pen said that she would still seek reelection as the RN's candidate for French president, but would hand over the leadership of the party after the next conference in July.
Le Pen had previously said she wanted to the "candidate of all French people" in next year's election while "obviously being supported" by her populist movement.
The former lawyer didn't give an indication of her successor during Friday's interview, although some have suggested the party's number two and MEP, Jordan Bardella, could become the new RN leader.
Bardella is 25 and previously served as president of the party's youth wing.
Le Pen's niece Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, who had previously been tipped as successor, has since quit politics.
Having lost to Emmanuel Macron by 66% to 34% in the second round of the 2017 French presidential election, Le Pen is in a much stronger position going into next year's vote.
Recent polls suggest she could come within a few percentage points of Macron in a second-round runoff between the two.
Macron's popularity has dropped recently over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and delays to the vaccine rollout.
On Wednesday, Le Pen mooted the idea of a government of national unity, aiming to draw both left and right-wing voters. Targeting the middle-ground helped Macron win in 2017.
Le Pen has promised a referendum on plans to radically change the country's approach to immigration within six months of taking office.
Since taking over from her father Jean-Marie as leader of the RN — the successor to the far-right Front National — Marine Le Pen has moderated many of the party's policies and has expelled members accused of racism and anti-Semitism, including her father.
She also no longer talks of France quitting the eurozone, telling the magazine on Friday that "leaving the euro was undeniably very frightening."
mm/msh (AFP, dpa)