French far-right anoints candidates amid party crisis that forced founding father from running



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France's National Front political party leader Marine Le Pen smiles at journalists as she leaves a meeting of the Committee on International Trade at the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday, April 14, 2015. French far right symbol Jean-Marie Le Pen announced Monday that he will not run in upcoming regional elections. The move follows party chief Marine Le Pen's refusal to back her father as a candidate in a key region in southern France. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)


France's National Front political party leader Marine Le Pen attends a meeting of the Committee on International Trade at the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday, April 14, 2015. French far right symbol Jean-Marie Le Pen announced Monday that he will not run in upcoming regional elections. The move follows party chief Marine Le Pen's refusal to back her father as a candidate in a key region in southern France. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)


PARIS — France's far-right National Front anointed candidates Friday for regional elections amid a party crisis that forced founder Jean-Marie Le Pen from running.

The 86-year-old Le Pen missed out on Friday's party meeting because he was hospitalized Thursday for what the party said were routine exams, and he remained in the hospital Friday.

Le Pen's granddaughter, rising star Marion Le Pen, won backing at Friday's meeting to replace him as a candidate for the December elections for the southern region that includes Provence and the French Riviera region.

Party president Marine Le Pen said on national television last week that she would oppose her father's candidacy after he made anti-Semitic remarks, repeating that the Nazi gas chambers were a "detail" in World War II history and praising Nazi collaborator Philippe Petain. He risks disciplinary action in the weeks ahead.

Marine Le Pen is striving to make the party voter-friendly and to distance it from its racist past while maintaining its strong anti-immigrant, anti-European Union stance, and it has chalked up electoral successes. The public feud threw the party into one of its worst crises.

"It's absolutely disastrous," party member Bruno Gollnisch, a close ally of Jean-Marie Le Pen and rival of his daughter, said after the meeting. "Exactly what are we fighting for?"

Allies of Marine Le Pen defended her crackdown on her father.

"It is a new National Front in any case" since Marine Le Pen was elected in 2011, said senior party member Florian Philippot. "We are going to continue to make the party more effective, more professional and bring people together more clearly."

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