Le Pen senior drops election bid after feud

Honorary president of the National Front Jean-Marie Le Pen has decided not to stand in France's regional elections after his own daughter, the party leader Marine Le Pen, refused to back him.

Le Pen senior drops election bid after feud
Jean-Marie Le Pen has succumbed to pressure from his daughter and will not stand in the regional elections. Photo: AFP

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of France's National Front, said he was pulling out of regional elections Monday after a
row with his daughter who now leads the far-right party.

Le Pen incurred the wrath of his daughter Marine Le Pen by repeating an assertion that the Nazi gas chambers were a "detail of history" and following that up with a defence of France's wartime leader Petain, who collaborated with the Nazis.

He told the Figaro magazine he would not be standing in the southeast of France for the party even though "I think I was the best candidate for the National Front".

In stepping down, the 86-year-old appeared to get in another dig at his daughter, who has been trying to clean up the party's racist and anti-Semitic image in a bid to make it more electable.

Asked by the Figaro who should stand in his place, he anointed his granddaughter Marion Marechal-Le Pen, 25, a rising star in the party with social views considered more conservative than Marine's.

"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," he told the magazine.

The dramatic family feud first burst into the open last Wednesday with Marine accusing her controversy-loving father of committing "political suicide" when he said Nazi gas chambers were a "detail of history" and defended war-time French leader Philippe Petain, who collaborated with Hitler's regime.

Then on Thursday, Marine Le Pen said the 86-year-old former FN leader had been summoned "to the executive body" for disciplinary proceedings.

Marine Le Pen also asked her father "to prove his wisdom, draw the consequences of the trouble he himself has created and maybe give up his political responsibilities."

Marine Le Pen said on TF1 television that the row pained her deeply — both as a daughter and a member of the FN, which has made huge electoral strides in recent years, becoming one of Europe's most successful far right parties.

"But before being daughter and father… we are political leaders and in being so we have huge responsibilities with regard to not only the future of the National Front but also to the future of our country," she said.

Jean-Marie Le Pen didn't take long to hit back, taking to the airwaves of French radio station RTL to lambast his own daughter, saying he was "flabbergasted" by her decision.

"I don't understand the reason for this action. Marine Le Pen is in the process of blowing up her own party," said the veteran of the France-Algeria War, who has numerous convictions for hate speech.

"It's not me killing myself, it's she who is shooting herself in the foot," the 86-year-old told RTL radio.

However with Monday's announcement that he will not stand in December's regional elections in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, it appears that Marine Le Pen is winning her battle to ease him out of politics.

And both appear to have realised that the public spat is tarnishing the image of the party.

In a later statement on Monday Jean-Marie Le Pen said he would "not be party" to a "serious crisis" that has hit the FN because of his recent comments.

The interviews "do not justify the racket that has been set off in our ranks which could weaken our movement to a dangerous degree," he said.

In a poll published on Sunday, more than two-thirds (67 percent) of FN voters said they were in favour of Jean-Marie's departure while 74 percent said they believed his media sorties were harming the party.


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France’s far-right patriarch refused questioning in EU fraud case

Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of France's far-right National Front party, refused to submit to police questioning last month as part of an EU funding inquiry, claiming immunity as a European Parliament lawmaker, his adviser said Sunday.

France's far-right patriarch refused questioning in EU fraud case

Le Pen is one of several party MEPs suspected of using European Parliament funds provided for assistants to pay more than 20 France-based party staff.

If convicted, the party could be ordered to repay €7 million ($8.2 million), and the judges pre-emptively seized the subsidies.

An EU tribunal has already determined that Le Pen must reimburse €320,000.

But when police from France's anti-corruption squad tried to question him last month at his office just outside Paris, he claimed MEP immunity and ordered them to leave.

“He was prepared to receive them, but they had such arrogant attitudes which Jean-Marie Le Pen refused to accept,” his adviser Lorrain de Saint Affrique told AFP, confirming a report in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

Le Pen, 90, sits as an independent after being thrown out of his party by his daughter Marine Le Pen in 2015 for saying the Nazi gas chambers were a mere “detail” of history.

He has also often made disparaging statements against Muslims and Roma which have earned him a string of hate speech convictions.

His daughter has renamed the party the National Rally in an effort to shed its xenophobic and anti-Semitic image.

The EU funding inquiry has led French judges to withhold €2 million of public subsidies for the party, a move which Marine Le Pen has denounced as a “death sentence”.

Without the funds, she warns the party will be bankrupt by September.