Jean-Marie Le Pen hands reins over to daughter

France said adieu to Jean-Marie Le Pen, its far-right firebrand, today as the Front National chose a new leader: his daughter Marine.

The 82-year-old, who founded the Front in 1972, said farewell with a rousing speech in which he made a passionate defence of his anti-immigration, anti-Islam policies.

Marine Le Pen, 42, aims to present a kinder face of a party known for its extreme views and thuggish elements, posing a threat to Nicolas Sarkzoy in next year’s presidential elections.

Recent polls have suggested up to 20% of the French electorate would vote for her and in a survey published by Marianne magazine, 22% or respondents said they supported FN ideas.

today, the former socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal, who is expected to run again in 2012, described Marine Le Pen as “more credible and dangerous than her father”.

Marine Le Pen became a FN member at 18 and headed the party’s youth wing for a while. In 1988, she campaigned, unsuccessfully, to become an MP while studying law. She was elected an MEP in 2008.

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