Daughter succeeds Le Pen as French far-right head

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France's far-right National Front party named former leader Jean-Marie Le Pen's daughter Marine as its new champion at its party conference on Sunday.

As expected, the 42-year-old Euro-MP and deputy leader, comfortably beat rival Bruno Gollnisch to become head of one of Western Europe's most enduringly influential anti-immigrant movements.

Her 82-year-old father, a one-eyed former parachute trooper, founded the party in 1972 and led it until his retirement on Saturday, when he stepped down at the start of its congress in the northern town of Tours.

Marine Le Pen is now expected to become the Front's flag-bearer in France's 2012 presidential election, where she will likely face incumbent centre-right leader President Nicolas Sarkozy and an array of left-wing challengers.

Under Jean-Marie le Pen the party never managed to break into government, and was accused of racism and shunned by other movements, but he managed to force some of his ideas into the national debate.

In 2002 he sent an electroshock through the political establishment by coming second in the first round of presidential voting, knocking Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin off the ballot.

Despite sharing her father's anti-immigration and anti-Islam positions, Marine is seen as offering a softer, potentially more-electable image. She won more than 67 percent of the party vote.

Her father read out the results before hundreds of cheering supporters.

© 2011 AFP

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