PARIS (Reuters) - A granddaughter of French far-right founder Jean-Marie Le Pen is to run for parliament, the third generation of the family to go into politics after her aunt Marine swept almost a fifth of the vote in Sunday’s first round presidential election.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, 83, said he would help his 22-year-old granddaughter Marion Marechal-Le Pen run for parliament in June’s legislative election.
He had been expected to run himself in the southeastern town of Carpentras, 100 km (60 miles) north of the Mediterranean port city of Marseille, but decided to step aside for his granddaughter.
His National Front party believes it can win seats in parliament for the first time since 1986, when a brief experiment with proportional representation gave it 35 deputies.
“I won’t be a candidate for the parliamentary elections,” Jean-Marie Le Pen said. “I will soon go there (Carpentras) and present Marion and all the candidates in the Vaucluse region. I will help her campaign.”
Labeled a firebrand racist by his critics, the former paratrooper made it to the second round of the 2002 presidential election, forcing left-wingers to hold their noses and vote conservative in a second round.
He passed the baton of party leadership to his daughter Marine Le Pen in January 2011.
Based on Sunday’s first round presidential election vote, in which Marine Le Pen came third with 17.9 percent, the National Front party could reach the second round in up to 345 constituencies, more than half of the 577 seats in the parliamentary election, splitting the right-wing vote.
Jean-Marie said he had picked Carpentras to clear the National Front’s name after 1990 when the party was indirectly accused of desecrating a Jewish grave.
“It’s here that the National Front was insulted and falsely accused by a left-wing political conspiracy,” Le Pen said. “The National Front wants to avenge what happened in Carpentras through this young girl who is a symbol of her generation.”
About 30 percent of the town’s 30,000 inhabitants voted for Marine Le Pen in the first round, putting her narrowly behind incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy. Carpentras is the only town in France that has a National Front county councilor.
Jean-Marie Le Pen said of his granddaughter: “She has a degree in law, she’s brave, intelligent, pretty and full of qualities. It’s in the family.”
Speaking to Le Parisien newspaper, Marion, who ran for local elections in 2010, said she had thought long and hard about running for parliament but was confident she would give Sarkozy’s center-right party a run for its money.
“Even if it won’t be simple, the fact that I‘m a woman - so a symbol of equality - and that I carry the name Le Pen is a positive thing that could help me win,” she said.
Reporting By John Irish; Editing by Janet Lawrence