PARIS – A French appeals court confirmed on Friday the legality of the ultra-nationalist and far-right Front National former leader Jean-Marie Le Pen’s expulsion from the party, which is now headed by his daughter Marine, although it upheld his status as the party’s honorary president.
Le Pen, 89, who founded the FN in 1972 along with other nostalgics of Vichy France and Nazi sympathizers, was expelled in 2015 by his daughter in an effort to renew the party’s image by distancing it from its anti-Semitic and white supremacist roots and moving closer to a revamped euroskeptic populism with a virulent anti-immigration and Islamophobic rhetoric.
Le Pen, who is currently a Member of the European Parliament for the FN, was banned from the party after he downplayed the use of gas chambers in Nazi death camps, prompting a prolonged legal battle between him and his daughter that had seen the expulsion annulled twice before Friday’s decision by the Versailles Court of Appeal to uphold it.
The tribunal, however, also ratified a 2016 ruling by the Nanterre High Court that Le Pen can still retain the position of honorary president-for-life despite no longer being a party member.
While Le Pen, through his adviser Lorrain de Saint Affrique, said he was satisfied with the court’s decision to uphold his symbolic status, his victory may be short-lived, since Marine Le Pen has announced she would eliminate the position of honorary president at the FN’s upcoming convention in March.
Saint Affrique told the television channel BFMTV that Le Pen would fight during the convention for his reinstatement and criticized Marine Le Pen for “not achieving her purported aims as of late.”
The feud between father and daughter-turned-political-heir has escalated since the latter kicked her progenitor out of the party in 2015: following her defeat in the run-off to last year’s presidential election – in which she only obtained 34 percent of the vote against current President Emmanuel Macron –, Le Pen said his youngest child and successor should step down from the FN’s leadership.