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A Far-Right Family Feud In France Appears To Claim Movement's Icon

The founder of France's far-right National Front party, Jean-Marie Le Pen, attends a news conference in Nanterre on March 22. Le Pen says he won't run in the upcoming regional elections.

Far-right French icon Jean-Marie Le Pen says he will not run in the upcoming regional elections — just days after falling out with his daughter and political successor, Marine Le Pen, over his comments about Germany's gas chambers and France's wartime leadership.

In a statement on his website, Le Pen lamented what he called the decline of free expression in France and in the ranks of his National Front, and said he was withdrawing his candidacy from the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region in order not to "dangerously weaken our movement." He asked his supporters to instead back the candidacy of Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, his granddaughter.

Le Pen's withdrawal from the regional election — which he first revealed to Le Figaro newspaper — caps a week of controversy that was sparked when he told French media that the German gas chambers were but a "detail" of World War II, and for saying that Phillipe Petain, who headed France's collaborationist Vichy government during the war, was a misunderstood man.

Le Pen has made similar remarks in the past and has also been accused of anti-Semitism. He has previously been convicted of incitement to racial hatred.

Le Pen's remarks were criticized by his daughter, who heads the National Front. The party has made significant gains in recent local elections in France, and the BBC adds that Marine Le Pen, who is widely expected to seek the French presidency in 2017, has tried to rid the National Front of its racist image.

Marine Le Pen, who took over the National Front from her father in 2011, called his remarks "political suicide."

Le Pen, 86, remains the National Front's honorary president.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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