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Le Pen edges closer to stripping father of party role

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Paris (AFP)

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen took another step Tuesday towards booting her estranged father Jean-Marie from her National Front once and for all, as party leaders voted to axe his honorary position.

In 2015 Marine Le Pen kicked her father out of the party he founded, for reiterating his view that the Nazi gas chambers were a mere "detail" of history and defending France's collaborationist wartime Vichy regime.

But he kept his title of honorary president of the FN, a post created in 2011 when he stepped down as leader to be replaced by his daughter.

The party's political bureau on Tuesday adopted new statutes governing party rules that would axe the honorary position, though they will have to be voted through by members at a party conference in March.

Marine Le Pen has weathered a difficult eight months since losing the presidential race to Emmanuel Macron, with her party torn by infighting over where the far-right should go from here.

She has overseen a campaign to "de-demonise" the FN by shifting its focus towards economic issues and trying to rid it of its reputation for racism.

But some inside the party say it needs to return to its roots following Le Pen's defeat by Macron after a campaign in which she particularly struggled to defend her call to quit the euro during a disastrous televised debate with her rival.

She is badly in need of a comeback after a string of other troubles that include disappointing parliamentary elections, court proceedings for alleged misuse of European parliamentary expenses, and financial woes.

Le Pen herself has suggested the party should consider changing its name, which for some voters still carries associations with racism.

- A boost for Le Pen junior -

The political bureau agreed "almost unanimously" to axe Jean-Marie's honorary post, said Bruno Gollnisch, a member of the European Parliament who is on the committee, though he personally abstained.

The honorary post has been the subject of a long and bitter legal fight between the two Le Pens, with the latest appeal ruling due on February 9.

The sensitive question of whether or not to change the party's name, meanwhile, has been put back until after the party congress.

Le Pen is planning to take the party's temperature at the conference in Lille before organising an online or postal consultation on the question, with "New Front" among the names being mooted, according to officials.

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