France's far-right National Front (FN) founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, whose party membership has been suspended by his daughter, said on Monday he plans to set up his own political group.
Last week party chief Marine Le Pen suspended her father’s membership and called a meeting to strip him of his title of honorary chairman after he repeated his view that Nazi gas chambers were a mere “detail” of World War II.
“I will not create another party — I will form a group that will not compete with the FN,” Jean-Marie Le Pen said on Radio Courtoisie.
Opinion polls this year have suggested Marine Le Pen will head the field in the first round of presidential elections due in 2017, although she is not expected to be able to muster enough support to triumph in the subsequent second-round ballot.
But if her father makes a presidential bid with a new party, he could take some of the National Front’s traditional supporters with him, divide the far-right movement and weaken his daughter’s showing in the first round.
Jean-Marie Le Pen said his new group will be “a parachute against disaster” and will welcome all who disagree with the National Front’s current political line.
Since taking the helm in 2011, Marine Le Pen has sought to rid the party of its anti-Semitic image and position it as an anti-immigrant, Euroskeptic force offering protectionist policies to shelter France from globalization.
Jean-Marie Le Pen said those opposing the new line “are numerous but do not have the means to make themselves heard.” He added that the new group’s objective is to put pressure on the FN to “return to decades-old policies.”
He agreed last month to give up on seeking to stand for the party in regional elections but has insisted he will not quit politics and will continue as a member of the European Parliament.