French National Front founder Le Pen to fight party expulsion
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National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen is to keep up his legal fight to stay in the French far-right party despite being excluded for a second time, keeping alive a family feud that has dogged his daughter’s campaign to become president of France.
The move was its latest attempt to sideline him and bolster his daughter Marine Le Pen’s election prospects in the 2017 presidential election.
But the founder of the party is not ready to leave quietly.
“I haven’t received notification of the decision yet. When I do, I will contest it, as I have already contested it,” Le Pen said on RTL Radio on Friday.
“I am the National Front,” he declared.
Jean-Marie Le Pen also stated that he had, “received many messages of support from people who believe the party has killed off all sense of patriotism.”
Battle for the FN
The former paratrooper also launched into the latest in a series of blistering attacks on his daughter, who stayed away from Thursday’s party executive hearing.
“She was in command of the firing squad over the telephone,” the right-wing firebrand declared. “She didn’t want to take part because it’s wicked to kill your papa, so she didn’t kill her father directly, she had him killed by her henchmen.”
Aurélien Mondon, a French politics expert at the University of Bath in the UK, explained to FRANCE 24 the importance surrounding the far-right party leader's efforts to expel her father.
“This is a very strong symbolic message sent by Marine Le Pen that efforts to mainstream the party come before family,” Mondon said.
“It could be a problem in the short term because Jean-Marie Le Pen will make a lot of noise – and it might not look very good to some party supporters. But in the mid- to long-term, it’s very much part of the strategy of the Front National to mainstream its image,” Mondon added to FRANCE 24.
“A good way for Jean-Marie Le Pen to leave politics”
Despite the war of words, Jean-Marie Le Pen’s exclusion is unlikely to lead to a split in the FN, according to Mondon.
“This is part of his persona. He’s leaving politics as an outsider, a rebel, someone who doesn’t play by the rules. In a way, it’s a good way for him to leave politics aged 87”, the French politics expert said.
Marine Le Pen succeeded her father as leader in 2011. Her row with him erupted in April last year, when he defended past comments he has made about how the gas chambers of World War Two were a “detail” of history.
Courts have twice this year overruled as illegal the party’s attempts to sideline Le Pen senior, who remains the party’s honorary president, after he appealed against their actions.
Marine Le Pen is trying to create a wider appeal and shake off its reputation for anti-Semitism, positioning the party as an anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic force offering protectionist economic policies.
“What has made the party so popular over the past few years is its anti-system rhetoric (…) A mainstream FN might be less appealing than an outsider FN”, Mondon said.
Polls show her on track to make it to the second, run-off round of the presidential election in 2017, but predict that she would lose.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)