Marine Le Pen Expels Her Father From National Front, Party He Founded

A fight to clean up the National Front has turned into an acrimonious father-daughter battle.

GettyImages-484584928crop
GettyImages-484584928crop

He has called the Nazis' use of gas chambers during World War II a mere “detail” of history and insisted that France’s collaborationist wartime leader, Philippe Pétain, later convicted of treason, is not a traitor. For this, Jean-Marie Le Pen, 87, has become a scourge for the party he founded, the National Front, and his daughter, Marine Le Pen, who leads it.

On Thursday, the National Front expelled Jean-Marie from the party, the latest twist in Marine’s effort to break with the party’s anti-Semitic past and broaden its appeal beyond a corner of right-wing French politics. The party has tried and failed to expel Jean-Marie before, and on Thursday the octogenarian icon of France’s far-right said he would challenge the latest decision in court. “I am outraged; I feel like I’ve been ambushed,” he said on television after the decision was issued. His lawyer, Frederic Joachim, went even further: The move, Joachim said, was a “political assassination.”

The National Front has seen its popularity steadily increase in the wake of Islamist terrorist attacks within France, growing public fears about illegal migration into the country, and mounting skepticism about whether Paris should remain in the European Union. Some polls now show that Marine Le Pen would likely have enough support to force a runoff in the 2017 presidential election, though probably not enough to beat a more mainstream candidate.

He has called the Nazis’ use of gas chambers during World War II a mere “detail” of history and insisted that France’s collaborationist wartime leader, Philippe Pétain, later convicted of treason, is not a traitor. For this, Jean-Marie Le Pen, 87, has become a scourge for the party he founded, the National Front, and his daughter, Marine Le Pen, who leads it.

On Thursday, the National Front expelled Jean-Marie from the party, the latest twist in Marine’s effort to break with the party’s anti-Semitic past and broaden its appeal beyond a corner of right-wing French politics. The party has tried and failed to expel Jean-Marie before, and on Thursday the octogenarian icon of France’s far-right said he would challenge the latest decision in court. “I am outraged; I feel like I’ve been ambushed,” he said on television after the decision was issued. His lawyer, Frederic Joachim, went even further: The move, Joachim said, was a “political assassination.”

The National Front has seen its popularity steadily increase in the wake of Islamist terrorist attacks within France, growing public fears about illegal migration into the country, and mounting skepticism about whether Paris should remain in the European Union. Some polls now show that Marine Le Pen would likely have enough support to force a runoff in the 2017 presidential election, though probably not enough to beat a more mainstream candidate.

That all depends, however, on Le Pen’s ability to expand the party’s base beyond nationalists whose beliefs often veer into xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and, more recently, fiercely anti-Muslim sentiments. Le Pen, who assumed control of the National Front in 2011, has already succeeded in putting a new face on the party, literally, by steadily replacing images of her father’s often snarling visage with photos of her smiling one. Winning enough support to mount a serious campaign for the presidency, though, requires a fuller break with the party’s past — and has now sparked a nasty fight between father and daughter.

Le Pen has taken her father to court three times since the spring in an effort to force him out of the party, but she lost each time. Le Pen stepped up her efforts to oust her father — or at least make clear that he no longer speaks for the party — after he reiterated his comments about the Nazi gas chambers this past spring and pointedly refused to scale back his public role. That led to the party suspending him, a decision that was overturned by a French court, which ordered that an extraordinary general meeting be held to determine his future in that party.

That body issued its decision Thursday. In a statement, the party’s top leaders said they had “deliberated and decided … the exclusion of Mr. Jean-Marie Le Pen as member of the National Front.” 

Photo credit: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images

 Twitter: @EliasGroll

More from Foreign Policy

A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed  according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.
A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.

Why Do People Hate Realism So Much?

The school of thought doesn’t explain everything—but its proponents foresaw the potential for conflict over Ukraine long before it erupted.

Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.
Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.

China’s Crisis of Confidence

What if, instead of being a competitor, China can no longer afford to compete at all?

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.

Why This Global Economic Crisis Is Different

This is the first time since World War II that there may be no cooperative way out.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.

China Is Hardening Itself for Economic War

Beijing is trying to close economic vulnerabilities out of fear of U.S. containment.