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Le Pen's father clings onto party role despite Holocaust remarks - for now

Un montage représentant la présidente du Front national Marine Le Pen et le président d'honneur du Front national, Jean-Marie Le Pen
Iroz Gaizka, GERARD JULIEN (AFP/Archives)
FN will vote next month on whether to scrap the honorary role held by her estranged father

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen's bid to cut the last links between her party and her estranged father Jean-Marie Le Pen suffered a court setback Friday.

The appeal court in Versailles ruled that while the National Front (FN) had been within its rights to boot 89-year-old Jean-Marie Le Pen out of the party over controversial remarks about the Holocaust he could remain as the party's honorary president.

The elder Le Pen co-founded the FN and led it for over three decades before handing the reins to his daughter -- runner-up to Emmanuel Macron in last year's presidential election -- in 2011.

In 2015, the Le Pens fell out publicly after Jean-Marie repeated his view that the Nazi gas chambers were a mere "detail" of history and defended France's collaborationist wartime Vichy regime.

The remarks embarrassed 49-year-old Marine, who expanded the party's support by purging it of the overt anti-Semitism and racism that were the hallmarks of her father.

Jean-Marie Le Pen was duly kicked out of the party, but he refused to go quietly, hauling the FN before the courts.

Last year, a court upheld his exclusion from the party but ruled he should be allowed to remain on as honorary president, a position he was given after stepping down as party leader.

JOEL SAGET (AFP/Archives)

The court in Versailles on Friday upheld that decision, which Jean-Marie Le Pen had appealed.

But his victory on the subject of his honorary party role may be short-lived.

At a conference next month FN members will vote on whether to scrap the role, in the ultimate attempt by Marine Le Pen to free the party from his grip.

FN secretary-general Steeve Briois on Friday warned Jean-Marie Le Pen against trying to stage a revolt, saying he was barred from the conference.

The family feud is an unwelcome distraction for Marine Le Pen, who is looking to the party congress to rebound from her stinging defeat by Macron.

Le Pen floundered badly in the final days of campaigning and ended up trailing Macron on 33.9 percent.

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