French far-right family feud deepens

9th April 2015, Comments 0 comments

The deputy chief of France's far-right National Front Thursday urged elderly founder Jean-Marie Le Pen to resign after he made controversial comments that forced his daughter and party leader Marine to publicly split with him.

Long rumbling in the background, the father-daughter feud burst into the open Wednesday with Marine accusing her controversy-loving father of committing "political suicide" when he said Nazi gas chambers were a "detail of history" or called for closer ties with Russia to protect the "white world."

The two traded barbed comments via written statements and on Thursday the 86-year-old honorary president of the FN warned that the party could "implode" if he was forced out.

"It's such a crazy idea that in itself, it carries the risk of implosion," Jean-Marie Le Pen told RTL radio, responding to party vice president Florian Philippot's comment that it would be "preferable" for him to resign.

Philippot also refused to rule out officially excluding the party founder, when asked about it on French radio earlier in the day.

"If this decision were taken, it would be completely crazy because the prestige that I obviously still have within the National Front would provoke a considerable stir, and a loss of influence for her (Marine) that she probably doesn't gauge," Jean-Marie Le Pen responded.

"Marine Le Pen may want me dead, that's possible, but she must not count on my co-operation."

The FN founder has been no stranger to controversy since he became head of the far-right party in 1972, and he continued to come out with shock statements even after his daughter took over the reins of the National Front in 2011.

But his latest sorties appear to have been the last straw for Marine, who has been trying to clean up the party's anti-Semitic and racist image since she took over, a move that has seen it soar in opinion polls as it attracts more mainstream voters.

Apart from condemning the comments, the 46-year-old also said Wednesday she would oppose her father standing in regional elections in December.

Jean-Marie Le Pen's repeat controversial comments over the years -- which have also included saying the Nazi occupation of France "was not particularly inhumane" -- have earned him a string of convictions for hate speech along the way.

© 2015 AFP

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