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Far-right candidate quits over grassroots 'racism'

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Far-right candidate quits over grassroots 'racism'
Nadia Portheault, a National Front elections candidate, has abandoned her campaign, slamming what she called the racism and homophobia of her fellow activists. Photo: Facebook/Screengrab
17:28 CET+01:00
A National Front candidate for upcoming local elections in southwestern France has spectacularly abandoned her campaign, slamming what she called the racism and homophobia of her fellow activists in the far-right party.

Nadia Portheault had planned to stand for the far-right National Front party in upcoming local elections in the southwestern town of St Alban.

However, it was revealed this week she had quit the race with an extraordinary letter to party leader Marine Le Pen, condemning what she called the racism and homophobia of the party's grassroots members.

“I am of Algerian origin and I do not agree with some of the speeches from certain people at the head of the National Front in my department,” wrote Portheault in the October 11th letter, seen by local newspaper La Voix du Midi and excerpted on Monday.

The letter, which was also addressed to the party’s representative in the Haute-Garonne department Serge Laroze, went on to cite examples of racism and homophobia within the party.

While she acknowledged that not all party members expressed such extreme views, she noted “a discrepancy between the words of Marine [Le Pen] and that of the grassroots activists."

“This permanent ambiguity between the shop window and the backroom which specializes in questionable jokes about Arabs and homosexuals was no longer bearable,” she added in the letter.

SEE ALSO: Far-right candidate compares black minister to monkey

The young mother, who, according to the paper, had become a symbol of the National Front's purported new openness, sometimes appearing on television broadcasts on behalf of the party, claims that in fact she was stigmatized because of her Algerian origins. 

“I wanted to be a candidate using my maiden name: Djelida. They strongly advised me to use my married name, even going so far as to tell me that my first name was already almost enough to put me at a disadvantage,” she said.

On one occasion, Portheault notes, an unnamed party member told her: “You and your children are fit for the oven.”

Portheault’s husband Thierry, a fellow party member, told La Voix du Midi that another local party member even boasted about his brother having a swastika tattoo and was “proud to say he is the son of a Nazi.”

Another member said “all Arabs must be killed”, he also claimed.

The accusations have been strongly denied by local National Front official Julien Leonardelli, who told AFP that the party is suing the couple for defamation.

"They will have to face the courts and show proof of everything they're claiming," he said.

Quoted in the paper, a National Front candidate in Toulouse, Serge Laroze said: “In all human groups, there is inevitable misbehavior and we can’t keep checks on everyone.”

“I’ve had them over to my house several times,” he said of the couple. “Suddenly, these very committed activists say that they were deceived, that there is another face to the [National] Front.” 

Portheault's explosive exit from the local elections comes at a time when the National Front is attempting to consolidate strong poll ratings into a successful nationwide performance in next March's local elections.

The far-right, anti-immigrant party, however, continues to be plagued by the outspoken views of its members and activists.

In October, the party was forced to drop a local election candidate after she compared France's black justice minister Christiane Taubira to a monkey.

Last month another National Front election candidate was suspended after posting a picture of a burning Israeli flag on his Facebook profile.

The party, once universally-regarded as anti-Semitic, racist and xenophobic, has undergone a project of "dédiabolisation" ("un-demonising") since Le Pen took over as leader from her father Jean-Marie in 2011.

Indeed, Le Pen recently went so far as to deny the party was "of the extreme right," and threatened legal action against journalists who labelled them as such.

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