Jean Marie (L) and Marine Le Pen
Jean Marie (L) and Marine Le Pen Reuters

Jean-Marie Le Pen, 86, the founder of France's National Front (FN), announced Monday he is pulling out of a regional election race following harsh criticism from his daughter, Marine, who has led FN since 2011.

The elder Le Pen said in Monday's edition of Le Figaro that he would not be standing for FN in France's Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region.

The fierce father-daughter feud began when Le Pen père repeatedly declared that the gas chambers used at concentration camps during the Holocaust were a "detail of history."

He also defended Vichy France's World War II leader, Marshal Philippe Petain, who collaborated with the Nazis.

In response to the remarks, Marine Le Pen, who has been fighting the party's racist and anti-Semitic image ahead of the 2017 presidential election, accused her father of committing "political suicide," and said she would oppose his candidacy in regional elections.

In a statement released last Wednesday, she said her father's status as honorary president of FN "does not give him the right to hijack the National Front with vulgar provocations, seemingly designed to damage me, but which unfortunately hit the whole movement."

Asked by Le Figaro who should stand in the elections in his place, Le Pen gave the nod to his 25-year-old granddaughter, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, a rising star among FN members.

Lobbing stink bombs

The angry Marine Le Pen has demanded her father's role in the party be discussed at a meeting of FN executives on Friday.

According to the Globe and Mail, “Ms. Le Pen has sought to rid the FN of its anti-Semitic image and position it as an anti-immigrant, euro-skeptic force offering protectionist economic policies to shelter ordinary French from the vagaries of globalization.”

“At some point, she was always going to have to find a way of silencing her maverick father, who at 86 uses his title of honorary president of the party to lob regular stink bombs into the French political debate,” the Toronto-based paper wrote.

The tougher is question is: How?

The younger Le Pen is currently a leading candidate for the 2017 presidential election.

A survey by Harris Interactive found 99% of FN supporters believe she embodies party values, versus 28% who said the same about her father, while the general French population associates the older Le Pen with the words “racist,” “old” and “trouble-maker.”

A study by Odoxa found nearly nine out of 10 of FN supporters think it is time for the father to quit politics.

“It’s possible that Marine Le Pen wants me dead and gone – but she shouldn’t bank on me going along with that,” the octogenarian told French radio in recent days, however, and warned the party would “implode” if she threw him out.

Marine Le Pen last week described her father’s behavior as “somewhere between scorched-earth tactics and political suicide.”

She said that she will not try to eject him from the party, but instead decided to oppose his bid to lead the party’s list in December’s local polls in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and back the granddaughter Marion instead. The grandfather has hinted that he may step aside and support the granddaughter as well.