Le Pen takes step back to lift appeal
FRANCE'S far-right presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen has stepped down as head of the Front National party in an apparent attempt to broaden her appeal to voters.
"Tonight, I am no longer the president of Front National. I am the presidential candidate,” she said yesterday on French public television news.
"I will feel more free and above all, above party politics, which I think is important.”
Ms Le Pen said she was taking "a leave of absence” to focus on her campaign, but she has repeatedly insisted she is not a candidate of her party and that the policies she is espousing are not her party's, but her own.
She has for years attempted to clean up her party's racist and anti- Semitic image to appeal to voters on both the left and the right. Her move to further distance herself from the party appears designed to attract a wider range of voters from the left and centre ahead of the May 7 presidential contest between herself and Emmanuel Macron, the independent centrist.
The news came as it was revealed Mr Macron got nearly one million more votes than Ms Le Pen in the presidential election's first round.
Mr Macron collected 8.66 million votes, or 24% and Ms Le Pen got 7.68 million votes, or 21.3%, according to the Interior Ministry's official final count.