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France: Le Pen steps down as party leader

'I'm no longer the president of the National Front, I am a candidate for the presidency of France," Le Pen said. Most polls see her trailing her centrist rival Macron by 20 points. Photograph: (Reuters)

WION Paris, France Apr 25, 2017, 02.13 AM (IST)

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said on Monday (April 24) that she was stepping aside from the leadership of her far-right National Front party 1in a bid to unite the French people as she prepared for the second round of the presidential election.

Most polls see Le Pen trailing her centrist rival Emmanuel Macron 40 points to 60, and she has to widen her support if she can hope to beat him in the run-off on May 7.

I have always considered that the president is the president of all the French people and therefore that he or she has to unite all the French people. That's a deeply-held conviction but now we have to act on it and that's why I think it's essential to stand back temporarily from the leadership of the National Front'
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"We can win. And I'll go even further, we're going to win. We're starting this campaign, according to the polls, 40 - 60. Ten little points, believe me it's totally doable, particularly because it has to be said that Mr (presidential candidate Emmanuel) Macron has benefited from a sort of skillfully-maintained haze in the first round. And now the haze is going to fade because now we're face-to-face," Le Pen said.

"This evening I'm no longer the president of the National Front, I am a candidate for the presidency of France," Le Pen told French television channel France 2.

Hugh Schofield from the BBC in Paris described the act as symbolic, saying it intended to show that her concern is for the country as a whole, not for her party, and that she is trying to appeal to voters of the candidates who lost in the first round, especially those of François Fillon.

The Associated Press characterised the move as trying to bring "a wider range of potential voters" to her party, the National Front Party, which has been "long tainted by racism and anti-Semitsm".

"I'm going to respond very clearly: I think we're reaching the critical moment. I have always considered that the president is the president of all the French people and therefore that he or she has to unite all the French people. That's a deeply-held conviction but now we have to act on it and that's why I think it's essential to stand back temporarily from the leadership of the National Front. So this evening I'm no longer the president of the National Front, I am a candidate for the presidency of France," the presidential hopeful said. 

(WION with inputs from Reuters)

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