May 11, 2015 / 7:09 PM / 2 years ago

France's Jean-Marie Le Pen to create new political group

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s far-right National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, whose party membership has been suspended by his own daughter, said on Monday he plans to set up his own political group.

France's far-right National Front political party founder and honorary president Jean-Marie Le Pen attends their traditional May Day tribute to Joan of Arc in Paris, France, May 1, 2015. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Last week, party chief Marine Le Pen suspended her father’s membership and called a meeting to strip him of his title of honorary chairman after the former paratrooper repeated his view that Nazi gas chambers were a mere “detail” of World War Two.

“I will not create another party. I will create a formation that will not compete with the FN,” Jean-Marie Le Pen said on Radio Courtoisie.

Opinion polls this year have suggested Marine Le Pen will head the field in the first round of presidential elections due in 2017, although she is not expected to be able to muster enough support to triumph in the subsequent second-round ballot.

But if her father were to make a presidential bid with a new party, he could take part of the National Front’s traditional electorate with him, divide the far-right movement and weaken his daughter’s chances of leading the first round.

Le Pen senior said his new group will be “a parachute against disaster” and will welcome all who disagree with the National Front’s current political line.

Since taking the helm in 2011, Marine Le Pen has sought to rid the party of its anti-Semitic image and position it as an anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic force offering protectionist policies to shelter France from globalization.

Jean-Marie Le Pen said those opposing the new line “are numerous but do not have the means to make themselves heard”.

He added that the new formation’s objective is to put pressure on the FN to “return to decades-old policies”.

Le Pen senior last month agreed to give up on seeking to stand for the party in regional elections, but has insisted he will not quit politics altogether and will continue as a member of the European Parliament.

Reporting by Sophie Louet; writing by Geert De Clercq; editing by Ralph Boulton

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