The daughter accuses the father of political suicide; the father publicly suspects that she would like him dead anyway; and the granddaughter watches in the wings, ready to pick up the pieces.
The feud within the Le Pen dynasty that has ruled France’s National Front (FN) for four decades is teetering between high drama and a low farce that could emerge as the biggest threat yet to the party’s quest for mainstream power.
Party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen’s defense last week of his view that Nazi gas chambers were a mere “detail” of World War II has prompted Marine Le Pen, FN leader since 2011, to demand his role in the party be discussed at a meeting of FN executives on Friday.
The bloodline linking the two, plus the family talent for invective, make this no ordinary political row — to the glee of rivals who have seen the FN gain from the rise in support for populist parties in a Europe just emerging from recession.
[Editor’s note: Jean-Marie Le Pen yesterday said that he would not seek the party’s ticket to stand in regional polls, adding that the best replacement candidate would be his granddaughter, Marion Marechal-Le Pen.]
“A father and daughter are ripping each other to shreds in public — the masters of Greek tragedy could not have staged it better,” veteran leftist Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a political pundit, said last week.
“Let us hope this runs and runs,” he said.
Marine Le Pen has sought to rid the FN of its anti-Semitic image and position it as a Euroskeptic, anti-immigrant, 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 party president to lob regular stinkbombs into the French political debate.
The tougher is question is: How?
The trained lawyer unanimously reconfirmed as FN leader in November last year has a firm grip on the party as she prepares for a 2017 presidential election in which she is tipped to make the second-round runoff, if not win outright.
A survey by pollster Harris Interactive found 99 percent of FN supporters believe she “embodies” party values against 28 percent for her father.
Harris found the French most associate him with the words “racist,” “old” and “troublemaker.”
Moreover, a separate study by Odoxa found nearly 90 percent of FN supporters think it is time for him to quit politics.
Yet ejecting him against his will would be another matter: As a shrewd strategist, Marine Le Pen will recall the brief, but sharp, decline in party fortunes after the messy 1998 split with its former No. 2, Bruno Megret.
In a brief telephone call on Tuesday last week, Jean-Marie Le Pen said: “In times like these, you should expect everything.”
In other words, he will not go quietly.
“It is possible that Marine Le Pen wants me dead and gone — but she should not bank on me going along with that,” he told French radio two days later, saying the party would “implode” if she kicked him out.
While such an implosion is unlikely given the declining personal support for Jean-Marie Le Pen within the party he created in 1972, far-right watchers believe a move to eject him would hurt his daughter’s image with grassroots members vital to her 2017 bid.
“Marine Le Pen would come across as unwilling to recognize her father’s contribution to the party,” analyst Jean-Yves Camus said. “The risk would be that it saps party morale.”
Marine Le Pen, who last week described her father’s behavior as “somewhere between scorched earth tactics and political suicide,” on Thursday last week said that she had no plans to eject him.
Moreover, his honorary title cannot be removed.
She will instead oppose his bid to lead the party’s election list in December’s local polls in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region and back his granddaughter, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, the latest member of the dynasty, for the ticket.
Yet even that would carry risks: at 25, Marechal-Le Pen remains a political novice, despite her seat in the national parliament. Her career could be ruined if her grandfather chose to run a dissident list against her in a region he knows well.
Quoted by the Journal du Dimanche weekly on Sunday, Jean-Marie Le Pen hinted he might step aside for Marion in what would be a possible olive branch.
It is a dilemma that should come as no surprise to Marine Le Pen.
The first line of her official biography is a remark her father once made to her and her two sisters: “You are Le Pen girls for life. It is not going to be easy, so you might as well get used to it fast.”
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”