Far-right presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen says she is temporarily stepping down as Front National leader in what is seen as an effort to avoid her party’s label scuppering her chances of victory.
The announcement means Le Pen will still advance to the presidential run-off on May 7 with Emmanuel Macron, but not under the party’s banner.
The FN was founded by her father, Jean Marie, in 1972, and Le Pen has attempted to de-toxify the party’s racist, anti-Semitic image in recent years.
Le Pen said tonight:
“I have always considered that the president is the president of all the French. Under this banner, he or she must unite all the French.
“Tonight, I am no longer the president of the Front National. I am the presidential candidate.”
“I will be above partisan considerations.”
Le Pen and centrist frontrunner Macron yesterday moved to the second and final round of the French presidential election in a historic shake-up of French politics.
The result represented a seismic shift, with neither of the candidates from the mainstream left Socialists or the right-wing Republicans party - which have governed post-war France - making the run-off.
Express.co.uk reported an insider in the Le Pen’s camp saying she wanted to be able to shake off the party’s toxic image, and broaden her appeal. It also suggested she would piece together a fresh, centre-right manifesto.
“It’s better that people don’t see her as the Front National leader because she needs (conservative François) Fillon’s conservatives and (far-Left candidate Jean-Luc) Melenchon’s Eurosceptics if she’s going to beat Macron,” the insider said.
For months, polls have suggested Le Pen cannot win in a straight run-off against Macron, with a gap between the two as big as 26 per cent as Macron is likely to sweep up votes from the left and right in an anti-Le Pen alliance.