Noemie Bisserbe, Wall Street Journal, August 20, 2015
The National Front on Thursday expelled Jean-Marie Le Pen from the far-right political party he helped to found, following months of acrimony with his daughter and successor, Marine Le Pen.
Mr. Le Pen was summoned before the party’s executive committee at its headquarters in the Paris suburbs of Nanterre after he reiterated comments he made 25 years ago playing down the Holocaust.
“I am outraged, I feel like I’ve been ambushed,” Mr. Le Pen said afterward on national TV. He added that he would challenge the party’s latest decision in court.
Mr. Le Pen, who put the National Front on Europe’s political map, has successfully sued the party over its previous efforts to marginalize him.
In attempting to sideline her father, Ms. Le Pen is seeking to turn the page on the National Front’s legacy as a party rooted in xenophobic and nativist rhetoric.
Mr. Le Pen retains a loyal following among the party’s hard-liners but his fiery persona has become a liability to his daughter’s presidential ambitions. Her efforts to steer the party away from its inflammatory past has helped the National Front attract new supporters across France–chalking up a string of victories in local elections–and has positioned Ms. Le Pen as a presidential contender in 2017.
An early test for Ms. Le Pen will be regional elections later this year. The National Front leader is running for president of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region, in northern France.
That area has become a flash point in the debate about Europe’s immigration policies.
Thousands of migrants fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and Africa are ending up in makeshift camps in the port city of Calais as they try to sneak into the U.K. through the Channel Tunnel or on ferries.
Mr. Le Pen’s clash with his party stems from comments he made in an April interview, reaffirming his decades-old claim that Nazi gas chambers were a “detail” of World War II.
Mr. Le Pen then told far-right publication Rivarol that he never regarded Marshal Philippe Pétain as a traitor. The French military leader was convicted of treason for collaborating with the Germans in occupied France.