Europe

Marine Le Pen steps down as head of France's National Front party

Greg Palkot reports from Paris

 

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen announced Monday she is temporarily stepping down as head of her National Front party with less than two weeks ago before the country chooses its leader in a runoff vote.

The move appears to be a way for Le Pen to embrace a wide range of potential voters ahead of the vote pitting her against Emmanuel Macron, the independent centrist who came in first in Sunday's first round, The Associated Press reported.

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"Tonight, I am no longer the president of the National Front. I am the presidential candidate," she said on French public television news.

Le Pen has said in the past that she is not a candidate of her party, and made that point when she rolled out her platform in February, saying the measures she was espousing were not her party's, but her own.

She also has tried to distance herself numerous times from a string of controversial comments by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the party before being kicked out in 2015.

"I have always considered that the president of the republic is the president of all French people... Now is the moment to move from words to action and it is the reason why it seemed essential to me" to leave the leadership role of her party, she added.

Le Pen has worked to bring in voters from the left and right for several years, cleaning up her party's racist, anti-Semitic image to do so.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.