France's Marine Le Pen openly opposes father in far-right family feud

Jeff Pachoud / AFP | Marine Le pen says she will block her father from standing in December's regional elections

French far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen made the shock announcement Wednesday that she would "oppose" her party-founding father Jean-Marie Le Pen in regional elections due in December following his latest inflammatory comments.


Marine le Pen issued a statement in which she said her father’s strategy was “somewhere between scorched earth and political suicide”, adding that as party leader she would attempt to block her 86-year-old father’s ambition to become president of the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region in December’s regional elections.

“His status as honorary president of the party does not authorise him to take the FN hostage through outrageous provocations whose aims appear to be to damage me, as well as the party, its leaders, its candidates and its electors,” she wrote.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the National Front (FN) in 1972, stepped down as party leader in 2011 and handed the reins to his daughter Marine, though he remains honorary president.

She has since worked hard to “detoxify” the image of her anti-Europe and anti-immigration party, which many still consider to be fundamentally racist and anti-Semitic.

Holocaust a 'detail'

But her father, an MEP who has been convicted on numerous occasions for making deliberately inflammatory and racist comments – including a statement that the Holocaust was a mere “detail” of the Second World War – has been a constant source of embarrassment for the FN as it tries to enter the political mainstream.

His latest comments, in an interview with far-right weekly magazine Rivarol (due to be published Thursday but leaked on Tuesday), appear to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

In his interview, Le Pen senior called Spanish-born French Prime Minister Manuel Valls “an immigrant”, adding indignantly that “he has lived in France for 30 years, I have lived in France for 1,000 years”.

Le Pen defended his “detail” comments in reference to the Holocaust, adding that he had “never considered [collaborationist WWII-era French leader] Pétain to be a national traitor”.

“Pétain was very badly treated after the liberation,” he said. “But I have never considered those people who continue to revere him as anti-French.”

Le Pen went on to call for a national rapprochement with Russia to “save northern Europe and the white race”.

He also lashed out at the FN’s populist promises to bring down the age of retirement to 60.

“It is ridiculous to ask for retirement at 60,” he said. “For decades as FN leader I asked for retirement at 65. Even the Germans have raised it to 67.”

Finally, when asked about strained relations with his daughter, who has been increasingly critical of his outspokenness, he concluded: “You are always betrayed by those you love the most.”

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