Thursday, August 20, 2015

Marine Le Pen Fights Father Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Legacy in Bid to Recast Anti-EU National Front

At the Wall Street Journal, "A Family Drama Splits Far Right in France":
PARIS— Marine Le Pen’s quest to transform the far-right National Front party from a fringe movement into a dominant force in European politics is hitting a fundamental obstacle: her own father.

The clash erupted during a closed-door meeting in early May when Ms. Le Pen attempted to muzzle the 87-year-old Jean-Marie, who had recently outraged the public by repeating his claim that Nazi gas chambers were a mere “detail” of history.

“Either you stop talking in the name of the National Front, or you stop making such statements,” Ms. Le Pen said, according to people in the room.

The response from Mr. Le Pen—the firebrand who had put the National Front on Europe’s political map decades before handing the torch to his daughter—was unequivocal.

“Never,” Mr. Le Pen said.

Months later, Ms. Le Pen finds herself locked in a political and legal battle to oust Mr. Le Pen from the party he helped found. In his defiance, the octogenarian is standing in the way of his daughter’s carefully laid plans to seize power in the heart of Europe.

Ms. Le Pen has tapped a groundswell of anti-European Union sentiment in France to position herself as a front-runner for French president in 2017—a prospect that sends shivers through the European establishment.

Currently a member of the European Parliament, Ms. Le Pen espouses pulling France out of the euro—with rhetoric more extreme than that of the far-left Syriza party in Greece, whose antiausterity platform contributed to the latest euro-membership crisis. She also campaigns to roll back key tenets of the EU, which she blames for the surge in immigration.

Ms. Le Pen’s success at the polls, however, ultimately hinges on whether the National Front can broaden its appeal to mainstream voters by removing the stain of World War II-era recriminations that have long made far-right parties taboo in Europe’s highest offices. That struggle is embodied in Ms. Le Pen’s tug of war with her father, a hero of Europe’s far right.

“She needs the votes of those who today are still uncomfortable with the National Front’s affiliation to right-wing extremist parties,” said Emmanuel Rivière, director at French polling agency TNS Sofres.

Ms. Le Pen has punished her father by suspending his membership in the party and excluding him from a caucus she forged inside the European Parliament with other anti-EU forces. She tried to have the party’s rank-and-file vote on whether Mr. Le Pen should be stripped of his role as National Front’s honorary chairman, but a French court suspended the ballot. Ms. Le Pen released the results of the voided vote, which showed 94% of those voting wanted Mr. Le Pen out of the National Front.

On Thursday, Mr. Le Pen will appear before a National Front disciplinary hearing to decide whether he should be expelled from the party.

“Marine Le Pen killed the father,” said Wallerand de Saint Just, a former lawyer of Mr. Le Pen who currently serves as the party’s treasurer, adding: “Freud didn’t have it all wrong.”
Who knows, maybe the old man will buy the farm?

It's going to be interesting to see what happens in 2017, in any case, especially if the Europeans don't get their act together on the migration crisis.

Still more.