One paper calls it “patricide,” some might call it a coup. In an interview with Le Figaro and in a statement, Front National (FN) president Marine Le Pen said she “will oppose” her father Jean-Marie Le Pen’s candidacy in the south of France for the upcoming regional elections. Imagine Jeb Bush banishing H. W. from the Republican party and you have some idea of the excitement that rippled through France’s political world this week.
Marine Le Pen’s remarks are a response to statements made by the elder Le Pen in an interview with far-right magazine Rivarol (the full interview is only available in print but you can read excerpts here) in which he reiterates some of his long-held views that the gas chambers of the WWII death camps were a “detail in history.”
The 86-year-old veteran politician also stated that the collaborationist leader of France during the same era, the reviled Maréchal Philippe Pétain, was “not a traitor” and that it was time to improve relations with Russia to save “the white world.” Charming, right? Marine Le Pen — in the midst of leading her once-fringe party to increasing political success — knew just what to do: she condemned her father’s “vulgar statements” and said they were a form of “political suicide” that could endanger her party.
Mr. Le Pen’s recent statements are nothing new for those who follow French politics. Since the 1980s the FN former leader has repeated his views on the Holocaust and the Nazi occupation of France has been forced to pay hefty fines, since it is illegal in France to deny the reality of the extent of the Holocaust. But according to Alain Jamet, one of his closest friends and allies within the party, the media are really the ones to blame for the latest provocation. “Everything that Jean-Marie Le Pen said was in response to questions that he was asked. He always says what he thinks but not everything he thinks was necessarily part of the Front National party platform” Jamet told Le Figaro, “those were his personal views.”
According to political observer Olivier Picard in Le Nouvel Observateur this rivalry between father and daughter was “bound to come up” at one point or another.” In the past, it had to be tempered but, Picard explains, this time Marine no longer needs her father because even the party’s faithful old guard now has full confidence in her ability to make the Front National a permanent staple of the French political landscape.
Jean-Marie Le Pen stepped aside from the Front National leadership in 2011 and became the “honorary” president of the party, but that hasn’t kept him from being a thorn in his daughter’s side, occasionally criticizing her decisions or the party’s new direction. Jean-Marie Le Pen will be questioned by party leaders on April 17. The movement’s political bureau, now dominated by his daughter’s allies, will decide if the FN founder will be allowed to run again for office under the official banner of the party.