The president of France’s increasingly popular National Front, Marine Le Pen, has come out against her father and party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen’s candidacy for regional office, saying that his most recent series of political gaffes have dealt a “heavy blow to the movement” of what party members have called "France for the French."
The father-daughter rift highlights Marine’s painstaking efforts to soften the right-wing National Front’s tone on immigration and race in France.
“Jean-Marie Le Pen appears to vacillate between a burnt-earth strategy and political suicide,” Marine said in a statement posted to party’s website Wednesday.
Marine told her father, currently the party’s honorary president, that she would, “with great sadness,” oppose his efforts to run for office in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur during regional elections later this year.
“His status as honorary president does not authorize him to take the National Front hostage,” Marine wrote. "His gross provocations seem to have as a goal to defeat me, but also deal a heavy blow to the movement, its framework, its candidates, its adherents and its members."
Marine is expected to run for France’s 2017 presidential elections.
Marine, who has engaged the party in an effort to shore up votes from France’s Jewish community after decades of what many have called anti-Jewish comments by her father, condemned Jean-Marie’s comment to the press earlier this month that the Holocaust-era gas chambers that killed millions of Jews were but a “detail of history.”
Jean-Marie has been convicted on numerous occasions — in French and European courts — of racist and hate speech. In 2005, he was fined 16,220 euros (what was then $12,335) for “inciting racial hatred” in his comment about French minority groups.
While French Muslims have accused Marine of promoting legislation to suppress Islam in France — with the Front National opposing halal lunches at public schools and instruction in Arabic language and Islamic studies at public school venues — she is often seen as attempting to undo the party’s reputation as, per French civil liberties advocates, Islamophobic and xenophobic.