France’s Marine Le Pen, who leads the country’s populist Front national, broke ranks on Wednesday with her father, Jean-Marie, who founded the party in 1972.
In a statement, Le Pen said her father had entered a “downward spiral of scorched earth tactics and political suicide” after telling a far-right magazine that she had “betrayed” the party’s principles.
Le Pen withdrew her support from her father’s candidacy in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France’s southeasternmost region.
“His status as honorary president does not allow him to take the Front national hostage with crude provocations that seem intended to harm me,” she said.
The statement came after the elder Le Pen reiterated his opinion that the Holocaust was only a “detail” in the history of the Second World War during an interview with the far-right weekly Rivarol that was due to be published on Thursday.
He also argued that Marshall Philippe Pétain, who led the Vichy France that collaborated with the Nazis during the war, should not have been considered a traitor.
Party vice president Florian Philippot, who led its 2012 presidential election campaign, wrote on Twitter that the break with Jean-Marie was now “total and final.”
Since taking over as party leader in 2011, Marine Le Pen has tried to get rid of the Front‘s far-right and fascist-leaning elements and transformed it into a broader nationalist movement that advocates protectionist economic policies and a French exit from the euro as well as NATO.
Marine’s rehabilitation of the Front has enabled it to reach a larger electorate. It took a quarter of the votes in recent European Parliament and local elections and Le Pen expects to get more than the 18 percent support than she did last time in the 2017 presidential contest. Polls suggest she could beat the Socialist Party’s incumbent, François Hollande, into third place.