PARIS (Reuters) - France’s National Front leader Marine Le Pen urged her father Jean-Marie to withdraw from political life and said she would begin disciplinary proceedings against him over repeated comments that had harmed efforts to broaden her party’s appeal.
The 86-year-old founder of the far-right party, who last week defended a past comment that Nazi gas chambers were a “detail of history”, was quoted on Tuesday as calling France’s Spanish-born Prime Minister Manuel Valls “the immigrant” and defending Philippe Petain, leader of the war-time government that cooperated with Nazi Germany.
In what has become an increasingly bitter family feud, Marine Le Pen and her aides believe her father is undermining her efforts to rid the anti-immigrant party of its anti-Semitic image and widen its voter appeal as she readies a bid for the presidency in 2017.
“Ultimately, Jean-Marie Le Pen needs to show wisdom. He needs to draw the consequences from the problems he created and end his political ambitions,” she told broadcaster TF1’s evening news broadcast.
She did not specify whether she was ready to expel her father from the National Front, a move he earlier told RTL radio would risk “imploding the party”.
But she said disciplinary proceedings were being launched against him.
“The French would not understand that we hold accountable a simple party member and yet that we accept this repetition (of comments), sometimes even premeditated,” she said.
“I get the feeling that he is no longer acting like a responsible leader of a movement that is the hope of millions of French people.”
Jean-Marie Le Pen still holds the title of honorary president of the party, from which other officials have been expelled for racism.
He is popular with many members and had been expected to stand as a candidate in December’s regional elections, something his daughter said she was now opposed to.
Under her leadership, the party has deepened its roots across France, winning outright control of some town halls and getting its officials elected onto provincial councils.
Polls suggest she could make it into the second-round run-off of a presidential election but was unlikely to win.
Reporting By John Irish; editing by John Stonestreet