French far-right presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen has announced that she is stepping down as leader of her National Front (FN) party to focus on gathering a large number of voters ahead of the decisive round in May. The move comes just a day after she reached the second round of the French Presidential elections, where she will face centrist Emmanuel Macron on May 7.
In the first round of voting centrist Emmanuel Macron won 23.9 per cent and Le Pen received 21.4 per cent. Le Pen told French TV on Monday night that she needed to be above partisan considerations. “I have always considered that the President of the Republic is the President of all the French and must gather all the French, but it is necessary to translate words into action,” she told France 2 public television on Monday.
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“I decided to leave the presidency of the National Front, and I am no longer the President of the National Front. I will be above partisan considerations,” she said. “We are the ones who will defend the most and the best in the democracy. None of my actions will be carried out without the people or against the people. I am the only one who can guarantee the French’s protection,” she added.
Le Pen brought the anti-establishment FN party into the country’s political mainstream in Sunday’s first round to elect a new President for the next five years. The 48-year-old presidential contender succeeded her father Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2011 to head the NF party. Since then, she has been working on softening the party’s image by targeting widespread support of the young and the workers.
After the first round of voting, French President Francois Hollande urged voters to choose Macron to keep out Le Pen. Speaking from the Elysee presidential palace, Hollande said that Le Pen’s platform of pulling out of the euro would devastate the country’s economy and threaten French liberty.
He said that the far-right would “deeply divide France” at a time when the terror threat requires “solidarity” and “cohesion”. Macron was Hollande’s top adviser on economic issues from 2012 to 2014, then economy minister in his Socialist government for two years.