Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's National Front party (FN), has announced that she will not support her father’s candidacy in this year’s regional council elections, AFP reports. The public split comes after comments downplaying the Holocaust by 86-year-old Jean-Marie Le Pen that could threaten his daughter's efforts to attract moderate voters to the far–right-wing party he founded.
Jean-Marie Le Pen is veering between “political suicide" and "a scorched earth strategy,” said Marine, 46.
“His status of honorary president does not allow him to take the National Front hostage, to make such crass provocations that appear aimed at harming me but which unfortunately hit the entire movement, its officials, candidates, members and voters very hard,” she added.
Marine Le Pen said she would oppose his standing in regional elections in December in what deputy party leader Florian Philippot described as a “total and definitive” split between father and daughter.
The National Front has seen a boost in popularity since the younger Le Pen took the helm in 2011, with the party winning a quarter of France's seats in the European Parliament last year. Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, Marine accused the country's leaders of living in denial of the Islamist threat and vowed to lead the country in its time of trial: “I intend to assume this vital responsibility so France can defend itself in the war that has been declared upon her.”
Marine Le Pen's attempts to move the National Front closer to the political center seem fundamentally incompatible with her outspoken father, who has recently repeated controversial statements that Nazi gas chambers were a small “detail of history” and praised French officials who collaborated with Hitler.
A French elections expert told AFP that the loss of Jean-Marie’s hard-right supporters would likely have a net benefit to his daugher and the party he founded in 1972. “What's the risk of cutting off [Jean-Marie] Le Pen? You might lose one or two percent but you might gain five or six.”