France election: Far right leader quits in Holocaust row

Jean-François Jalkh had been named as the interim president on Tuesday after Marine Le Pen stepped aside.

France’s far-right National Front (FN) has replaced its leader for the second time in three days after a row erupted about Holocaust denial.

Jean-François Jalkh had been named as the interim president on Tuesday after Marine Le Pen stepped aside to fight for the French presidency.

Mr. Jalkh denies claims that in past remarks he questioned the reality of Nazi gas chambers.

He is being replaced by Steeve Briois, one of the party’s MEPs.

Like Mr Jalkh, Mr Briois is also one of the party’s five vice-presidents. He is mayor of the National Front-run town of Henin-Beaumont in northern France.

“Mr. Briois will take over the interim leadership and there’ll be no more talk about it,” fellow FN vice-president Louis Aliot – who is also Ms Le Pen’s partner – told BFMTV news channel.

It is an unwelcome development for Ms Le Pen, who has worked hard to distance her party from its anti-Semitic roots – expelling her father from the party he founded over his comments that the gas chambers were a “detail of history”.

On Friday, Jean-Marie Le Pen waded into the controversy again, saying that a speech at a memorial for gay policeman Xavier Jugelé, who was killed by a gunman, had “exalted” the concept of gay marriage. The speech was given by Mr Jugelé’s widower.

Ms Le Pen herself drew strong criticism on 9 April when she suggested France was not responsible for a 1942 wartime round-up of 13,000 Jews, who were sent from France to Nazi death camps.

In a coincidental twist, Ms Le Pen’s rival for the presidency, Emmanuel Macron, on Friday visited the village of Oradour-sur-Glane, where Waffen-SS troops murdered 642 people in June 1944 in the worst Nazi massacre in occupied France.

 

Zainab Sa’id