Le Pen family drama: Curtains for Jean-Marie?

By Lucy Williamson
BBC News, Paris

  • Published
Front National founder Jean-Marie Le Pen with his daughter, FN leader, Marine Le Pen (right) in 2012Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Marine Le Pen lives in her father's mansion and the FN still depends on his funding

In France, the Le Pen family feud has long been viewed as something more like a Greek drama - and now there are mutterings of political parricide.

When Jean-Marie Le Pen confirmed on Monday morning that he was withdrawing his candidacy for December's regional elections, he gave the most concrete sign yet of his waning influence in the party he founded.

Since she took over four years ago, his daughter Marine Le Pen has tried to move the National Front party away from the image it had under its founder - shedding its racist undertones and broadening its appeal. There are many who say these new political garments are skin-deep, but nevertheless Marine has managed to win control of a dozen towns and put two MPs in parliament.

Her calculation last week in blocking her father's candidacy was clear - accusations of anti-Semitism are not good for the party's prospects at the regional elections in December nor the presidential race in two-and-a-half years' time. Mr Le Pen's comments about the Holocaust, his daughter said, were "political suicide".

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Marion le Pen (R) is said to be very close to her grandfather

Until now, Ms Le Pen has publicly smoothed over the growing tensions with her father over their social values and their views on the party's image. But recently those divisions became too great to ignore and now Ms Le Pen is faced with a dilemma over what to do with her intransigent and openly rebellious father.

Having blocked his candidacy, senior party figures are due to meet in the coming days to debate whether to evict him - a big step when he's the party's honorary president.

But Mr Le Pen's influence inside the party machine has long been on the wane. Decisions on its direction and personnel are made without him, and a poll this month by Odoxa suggested that almost 90% of Front National supporters believe it's time for him to withdraw completely from political life.

The poll also suggests that the party image would be vastly improved if he were to be evicted. But even if he is, it may not mean the end of his influence.

The youngest member of the Le Pen political dynasty, 25-year-old Marion Marechal-Le Pen, is already set to stand in the December elections in her grandfather's place. She's already an MP and is said to be so close to Mr Le Pen that her detractors have nicknamed her "Marionette" - or "Puppet".

And whatever his future role in the National Front might be, Jean-Marie Le Pen has never been one for keeping his views to himself.