PARIS (AP) — French far right symbol Jean-Marie Le Pen announced Monday that he will not run in upcoming regional elections, standing down amid a high-profile feud with his daughter over the future of the National Front party.
The move follows party chief Marine Le Pen's refusal to back her father as a candidate in a key region in southern France after the two fell out last week over anti-Semitic and other offensive remarks the 86-year-old party founder made in two interviews.
Marine has led the anti-immigration party to electoral successes and sought to clean up its racist image.
Jean-Marie Le Pen said in a statement carried on his Twitter account that the outcry within the party over his remarks "risks dangerously weakening our movement."
"I will not be complicit with this maneuver," he said to justify his decision to withdraw his candidacy from the race.
Le Pen initially announced his decision to stand down in an interview Monday with Le Figaro newspaper's weekly magazine.
Le Pen said he wants his granddaughter, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, a rising star and one of three party lawmakers who is close to the elder Le Pen, to run in his place.
A top party official, Florian Philippot, said on i-Tele television Monday that Le Pen had discussed his decision with the party leadership.
By standing down, Le Pen spares himself what would have been a deeply embarrassing episode for himself and the party — his possible formal exclusion as a candidate on Friday, when the National Front's political bureau meets to designate who will run in the December election.
However, he is not home free. Marine Le Pen has said she has decided to send her father before a party disciplinary board for repeating that the Nazi gas chambers were a "detail" in the history of World War II — a remark for which he has been convicted — and for voicing support for Philippe Petain, who headed France's collaborationist Vichy government during the war.