Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of France’s far-right Front National (FN), said he would not seek its ticket to stand in regional polls later this year, taking some of the sting out of a damaging public row with his daughter Marine, the party leader.
Marine Le Pen, who wants to draw mainstream voters to the party, has been trying to persuade her father, who has been convicted for incitement to racial hatred, to retire altogether from politics.
Jean-Marie Le Pen’s defence last week of his view that Nazi gas chambers were a mere “detail” of war prompted his daughter, FN leader since 2011, to demand his role in the party be discussed at a meeting of FN executives on Friday.
He said the gas chambers were a “detail of history” and then defended France’s Second World War leader Philippe Petain, who collaborated with the Nazis.
Marine said her father’s assertions amounted to “political suicide”, and she could not support his standing in regional elections in December.
Asked by Le Figaro magazine whether he would stand in the south-east Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, Jean-Marie said: “No — even though I think I am the best candidate.”
“If I must make a sacrifice for the future of the movement, I would not be the one to cause it damage,” added the former paratrooper, who remains the Front’s honorary president and will retain his seat in the European Parliament.
The feud within the Le Pen family, which has ruled the FN for four decades, has teetered between drama and farce that could emerge as the biggest threat yet to its quest for mainstream power.
Just five days ago, the 86-year-old said on his Twitter page that he would not back down from his candidacy.
In a sign of his family’s strong grip on the party, Le Pen said the best replacement candidate would be his grand-daughter Marion Maréchal-Le Pen.
She is seen as linked with the socially conservative side of the party most prevalent in south France. Whereas Marine, for example, did not publicly criticise a 2013 law permitting same-sex marriage in France, Marion was firmly against it.
Opinion polls see Marine as likely to make it to the second round of 2017 presidential elections but not win. How she handles her relation with her father will be one of the key factors to how her party fares in 2017.
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