Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen clinched enough votes Sunday to head into a runoff against centrist, independent candidate Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential elections. The mainstream party candidates on both the left and the right quickly backed Macron, and encouraged their supporters to unite behind his candidacy as a rejection of Le Pen’s extremism.
But now Le Pen has said she is temporarily stepping aside as leader of the National Front to focus on her presidential campaign, saying she wanted to be a candidate for “all the French.”
“Tonight, I am no longer the president of the National Front,” Le Pen said in a televised interview. “I am the presidential candidate the one who wants to gather all the French around a project of hope, of prosperity, of security.”
“I will be above partisan concerns,” she added.
The move appears to be a last-minute attempt to appeal to a broader swath of voters ahead of the May 7 runoff, in which Macron remains the favorite. Marine Le Pen has already tried to restyle the party as a “kinder, gentler” National Front, distancing herself from her Holocaust-denying father Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded Front in the 1970s. Even so, Le Pen remains a radical candidate, channeling populist outrage with her staunchly anti-immigrant and anti-Europe candidacy.