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Le Pen's deputy quits party as National Front crisis rumbles on

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Le Pen's deputy quits party as National Front crisis rumbles on
Photo: AFP
09:16 CEST+02:00
Marine Le Pen's National Front party continues to lurch from one crisis to another after the vice-president Florian Philippot, one of her closest allies, announced he was quitting on Thursday morning after a very public dispute with his leader.

Philippot, who up until recently had been one of Le Pen's longstanding and closest allies, told France 2 radio on Thursday morning that he was quitting the party. 

It came the morning after after Le Pen stripped him of his role as the party's chief strategist following a much publicised spat between the pair. Although Le Pen did allow to him to keep his title of vice president.

"They told me that I was vice-president of nothing," Philippot told France 2 radio. "Listen I don't have a desire to be ridiculed. I have never had the desire to do nothing, so of course I am quitting the National Front."

Le Pen said she "respected" his decision but criticized Philippot for his "strategy of victimisation" throughout the affair.  

The rift between Philippot and Le Pen began after the National Front's poor showing in the second round of the presidential election in May, when their candidate was trounced by Emmanuel Macron.

Following that defeat Philippot set up his own movement called "The Patriots" which at the time he said was to help spread Le Pen's message. But the movement became a source of anger among party leaders and eventually resulted in Le Pen demanding that he quit the leadership of The Patriots. Philippot refused.

But in reality the rift between the man, who had led the rebranding of the National Front from an extremist party into a populist, anti-establishment movement, dates back to the presidential election.

Many rivals in the party blame Philippot for being behind Le Pen's promise to pull France out of the euro -- a pledge that cost Le Pen crucial support -- and for shifting the FN's focus from immigration to economic nationalism.

Many in the party have since called for the National Front to change its stance towards the euro.

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France's National Front lurches towards crisis despite Le Pen's 10.6 million votes

Philippot however has been adamant that the party must not backdown on its quest for a Frexit and had threatened to walk away from the party if it did.

He eventually followed through on that threat on Thursday.

Philippot said he felt "disappointment and sadness" but also slammed the National Front for being "held by back by its old demons".

Le Pen's partner and party bigwig Louis Aliot celebrated the news of Philippot's demise.

Aliot blasted Philippot for being "vain, arrogant and a sectarian extremist who tried to muzzle our freedom to debate".

While his resignation may be welcomed by many in the party who were against him, but it's another sign the National Front has still not recovered from its election hammering.

Philippot follows in the footsteps of Marion Maréchal Le Pen. Marine's niece who was considered a future leader, also walked away from the party after the presidential election citing a desire for a more ordinary life away from politics.

With Marine Le Pen vowing to modernise France's far right party which she says may even include a name change, more strife and infighting lie ahead.

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