PARIS — Jean-Marie Le Pen announced Tuesday that he will create a new political formation following his suspension from France’s far-right National Front party that he founded more than 40 years ago.
Le Pen, 86, who is embroiled in a family feud and risks losing his title of honorary president for life of the party, did not specify what form the new movement would take, though he said it would not be another political party.
He said Tuesday on RTL radio that vice-president Florian Philippot is slowly taking over command of the National Front from his daughter Marine Le Pen — the party president.
“It’s Philippot or Le Pen,” he said defiantly.
Philippot, who has a stock of elite degrees, is the most visible member of the leadership of the anti-immigration National Front, appearing regularly on French television. He is considered Marine Le Pen’s top lieutenant _ though the senior Le Pen claims it is the other way around.
Speaking on Radio Courtoisie on Monday night, Le Pen said he wants to create a “kind of parachute against disaster.”
“I won’t create another party,” he said. “I’ll create a formation that won’t compete with” the National Front.
As the most serious in a string of family feuds between the Le Pens ballooned into a political crisis, Philippot spoke with virulence against Jean-Marie Le Pen, at one point comparing him to an old singer who cannot leave the stage.
Marine Le Pen, her sights set on the 2017 presidential election, has been working to clean up the image of the party her father founded in 1972. The National Front has been a critical factor in elections since 1984, setting the agenda for mainstream politicians but unable to shake its status as political pariah.
Le Pen drew the ire of his daughter and the party hierarchy in early April when he reiterated anti-Semitic remarks and spoke kindly of World War II collaborationist Philippe Petain.
Last month, the party suspended Le Pen and is to rule within three months on whether to abolish his president-for-life title.