France's far right National Front party founder and Member of the European Parliament Jean-Marie Le Pen arrives to take part in a voting session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, May 11, 2016. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler(reuters_tickers)
PARIS (Reuters) - French far-right veteran Jean-Marie Le Pen said on Thursday his newly-formed party would field candidates in next year's parliamentary elections, in a direct challenge to his daughter who excluded him from the National Front (FN) party he founded.
He said he would not hesitate to field candidates in constituencies where the FN is running, which would diminish the chances of any far-right candidate to win seats in France's lower house of parliament. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for June next year, after presidential polls in April and May.
Marine Le Pen, who now heads the FN, forced her father out of the party last year over comments playing down the Nazi Holocaust. The feud burst into the open after she sought to soften the anti-immigration party's image to help her quest for power.
"I will be present for the parliamentary elections, because the Comites Jeanne movement will field candidates, lots of candidates," he said on LCI television, referring to his new political movement bearing the name of national heroine Joan of Arc.
"I call on all the people who think, as I do, that the line defended by the National Front is not what it used to be, to join me," the 88-year old added.
Unlike her maverick father, Marine is not content with attracting protest votes and targets power. Following a strategy of "de-demonisation", she has sought to make the FN a mainstream party and more politically respectable - something her father regards as a mistake.
Marine's growing popularity has not suffered from her father's expulsion. But while opinion polls see her topping the first round of presidential elections in April next year, she is seen losing a run-off vote whether it be against a centre-right or a centre-left candidate.
(Reporting by Simon Carraud and Michel Rose; editing by Ralph Boulton)