Former French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen was suspended Monday from the party he founded - and then immediately tried to severe all ties with the daughter who he turned over the presidency to, saying he was "ashamed" she shares his name.
Jean-Marie Le Pen was sidelined from the National Front party which he founded in 1972 by the party's executive over a series of racist and antisemitic remarks about Jews and Nazis. A party-wide vote is to take place within three months on whether to strip the 86-year-old of his position of honorary president for life.
In a statement, the party said a majority of its leadership supports abolishing the title, which Le Pen has held since 2010. The suspension does not affect Le Pen's European Parliament seat, party spokesman Alain Vizier said.
Le Pen described his suspension as a "felony", threatened legal action, and said he was disowning his daughter Marine Le Pen who took over as the party's leader in 2011.
“I am ashamed that the president of the Front National has my name and I hope she loses it as soon as possible. She could either marry her concubine or Monsieur Philippot or anyone else. I’d rather the president of the FN was no longer called Le Pen," The Guardian reports.
“She can be Marine Aliot or Marine Philippot. It would be better. She has betrayed her father and the founder of the FN in an absolutely scandalous way.”
Marine's partner is Louis Aliot, the vice-president of the FN. Florian Philippot is another vice president of the party.
Le Pen stormed out of the far-right headquarters after refusing to attend a disciplinary hearing, saying that it was "beneath his dignity" and that he had done nothing wrong.
He had earlier repeated his view that the Nazi gas chambers were just a “detail” of the second world war and that he had never considered Marshal Philippe Pétain, leader of the collaborationist Vichy government, “a traitor”.
Just hours after his daughter Marine Le Pen had said her father should not be allowed to speak for the party, he attended a meeting to decide FN candidates for regional elections in December.
When a motion was passed condemning his proposals, Le Pen left, making a series of cutting remarks about the party and his daughter.
According to The Guardian he told reporters: “The honorary president, founder of the Front National, believes it is below his dignity to appear before a disciplinary panel when he considers he is perfectly innocent.
“I am acting in my role as a parliamentarian who is paid to speak. I am speaking on behalf of Jean-Marie Le Pen. I don’t speak on behalf of the FN and haven’t done for the last four years since Marine Le Pen became president of the FN.”
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Le Pen has been a thorn in the side of National Front leaders since turning over the presidency to Marine who has campaigned to transform the anti-immigration party from political pariah to a voter-friendly alternative in the 2017 presidential elections. Under her leadership the party has continued to push policies around immigration and security and to rally against what she claims is the "Islamisation" of France.
Before suspending Le Pen, the party's broader political bureau said it "disapproves the comments made and reiterated by Jean-Marie Le Pen". It also affirmed its confidence in Marine, who has been estranged from her father following a series of public spats, to ensure that "nothing can divert (the party) from its goal of gaining power in the service of France and the French".
Marine has called for her father to retire from political life and some of the party’s young guard suggested he could be excluded from the party altogether. Others said such a move was unthinkable.
Le Pen claims he has not spoken on behalf of the National Front since 2011, and said disagreements within any party's ranks is normal.
He said: "We're not a Soviet party. We are not required to have the same ideas on all subjects."
Polls have shown rising support for the anti-immigration party, which has made gains in recent French elections.
Le Pen has been forced to abandon his plans to run in regional elections in southern France in December despite his popularity there and his seat on the regional council.
His summons to appear before a disciplinary committee marks the high-point in Le Pens deteriorating relations with his daughter. The National Front has often been stymied by the feud.
The turmoil veered into near chaos at the party's traditional May Day march to honor its patron saint Joan of Arc. The father-daughter team, usually side-by-side, didn't cross paths - until the elder Le Pen made an unscripted appearance on stage and raised fists clenched in apparent defiance, before his daughter was to deliver a speech.
When he laid a wreath at the foot of the gilded Joan of Arc statue, he loudly implored "Help, Joan of Arc!"
The divide between detractors and supporters of Le Pen is stark.
The old guard at Le Pen's side for decades is scandalised at the idea of punishing their mentor who paved the way for the younger generation in charge today.
"I understand that some would like to see his head on a silver platter like Salome presented the head of John the Baptist," Bruno Gollnisch, a European Parliament lawmaker, said in an interview.
But for him, "There is no way for any kind of sanction or punishment. It is absolutely ridiculous."
There is concern among some that punishing the honorary president could prove a costly political mistake, costing the allegiance of supporters of Le Pen, who is especially popular in southern France.
"In principle, you don't spit on your ancestors. You lean on them," said Michel Masson, 75, who made the trip to Paris for the May Day march from Salon de Provence. "Marine wants power at any price."
Stephane Ravier, a National Front senator and district mayor in Marseille, played down "the agitation."
"We can call this growing pains," he said in an interview.Suggest a correction