France

Le Pen backs daughter to take helm of National Front

Reuters

The succession battle of France’s far-right National Front (FN) is in full swing, with the 82-year-old retiring leader Jean-Marie Le Pen on Wednesday throwing his support behind his daughter for president.

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The tussle for party president is between Le Pen junior and Bruno Gollnisch, Le Pen senior's right-hand man, whom he met while studying at Nanterre university.

They differ over the image and direction of the far right, whose influence in France outweighs its numbers.

Marine Le Pen, 41, who is the party’s vice-president, wants to shift the FN's appeal to mainstream France, which she claims is moving towards the right.

While Le Pen senior has long said France is being invaded and cheated by foreign hordes, and decries excessive Jewish influence in the media, Marine shrugs off her father’s anti-Semitism.

But she holds a firm anti-immigrant, anti-burka and anti-Islam line.

The twice-divorced mother of three is a municipal councillor in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, and in 2004 was elected to the European Parliament, where she was then re-elected in 2009.

At the French regional elections in March, Marine Le Pen achieved the FN's second-highest score behind Jean-Marie.

In Nord-Pas-de-Calais, she took 22.20 per cent of the vote, surpassing even the UMP candidate Valerie Letard.

Marine is the youngest of Le Pen’s three daughters and was a lawyer before becoming a legal adviser to the FN in the late 90s, especially when a split with supporters of then-Number Two Bruno Mégret took place.

Marine Le Pen made her first media appearances in the 2002 presidential election that saw her father sweep into the second round.

Her supporters within the party say she represents a more modern and less rigid FN, but her campaigning in the 2007 presidential election did little to prevent Le Pen senior’s setback to 10.44 per cent of the vote.

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