French far-right No. 2: National Front had to expel party founder to end 'destruction'



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PARIS — The far-right National Front's second-in-command said Friday that the party had no choice but to expel its founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, because he was ruining the anti-immigration party.

Florian Philippot said on BFM-TV that Thursday's decision to kick out the 87-year-old Le Pen was justified because he went "from provocation to provocation" in a "work of destruction."

Le Pen's expulsion was the climax of a feud with his daughter, party president Marine Le Pen, that began in April and has since turned into a political drama. Polls suggest that she has a serious shot at the French presidency in the country's 2017 election.

But Le Pen, known throughout his nearly half-century career for bombastic statements and a feisty personality, is promising that the saga is not over.

"I'm at home at the National Front," Le Pen said Friday on RTL radio, reiterating his intention to take the matter to court.

He has already won three court battles with his daughter, who was forced to cancel a mail-in vote to remove her father's title as the National Front's honorary president for life.

The expulsion followed a hearing before six members of the party's executive bureau where he was summoned to respond to 15 grievances — all statements considered a liability to the new image of the party, as Marine Le Pen eyes new victories in December regional elections. In one statement, Le Pen reiterated his contention that the Nazi gas chambers were a "detail" in World War II history.

Le Pen supporters contended the expulsion decision was surprisingly speedy, and the party acknowledged Friday it had yet to be signed by executive bureau members.

Le Pen said he was expelled by a "firing squad" — under telephone orders from his daughter.

Neither Marine Le Pen nor Philippot was present at the hearing, and the father contended Friday she was absent because "it's dirty business to kill your dad."

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