Far-right candidate for the French presidency, Marine Le Pen, has just announced that she will be stepping down as the leader of the National Front party. This shock move comes just one day after she reached the second round of the French election where she will face off against centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron.
“This evening I decided to take my leave of the presidency of the National Front,” she told TV channel France 2. “I will be above partisan considerations.”
Ms Le Pen used the same interview to launch an aggressive attack upon Macron, calling his policies an attack on French people in favour of globalisation and massive immigration.
It is not known at this moment in time if this decision will be permanent or not, however I’d bet money on it being a temporary measure. Le Pen first took over leadership of the National Front in January 2011 from her father and since then has helped the party make big gains in regional elections.
On Sunday she managed to win 7.6 million votes, the strongest showing ever for a National Front candidate, it’s 2.8 million more than her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen was able to achieve in 2002 when he was defeated by Jacques Chirac.
Le Pen is running on a highly anti-immigrant platform that has resonated with a large number of French voters who are suffering under repeated terrorist attacks. The National Front also want to clamp down on free trade and re-evaluate France’s relationship with the European Union, possibly even going so far as to have their own Brexit style referendum.
The party is seen by many in France as toxic and this move by Le Pen is a smart move, she will be able to distance herself from the parties most divisive policies and give her a more appealing platform on which to run for the presidency.
Ms Le Pen’s rival in the second round of voting is former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron who is widely expected to win the next vote on 7th May, however this move by Le Pen to appeal to a wider demographic may narrow the margin by which Macron is leading.
Mr Macron’s party, En Marche, adopts a liberal, pro-EU agenda, making his victory on Sunday a huge relief for European leaders across the continent.
On Monday Macron won the backing of President Hollande, along with the support of his two defeat rivals, the Socialist Benoît Hamon, and the Conservative François Fillon.
President Hollande declared the far-right Le Pen as a true threat to the stability of the European Union and the peace and stability it has brought to France. He said the threat would, “profoundly divide France” and that “faced with such a risk, I will vote for Emmanuel Macron”.
He also said that his former economy minister would “defend the values which will bring French people together at such an important moment, a serious time for Europe, the world and France”.