Le Pen Steps Aside As National Front Leader In Bid For French Presidency

    Marine Le Pen, one of two candidates for the next president of France, took a leave of absence Monday from her role as leader of the National Front, the far-right party that she and her father have led for four decades.

    “I think that we are approaching a decisive moment. I still believe that the president is the president of all French, and that one has to unite all the French,” she said, explaining her decision on television station France 2.

    Le Pen is facing tall odds in the presidential election, facing centrist politician Emmanuel Macron. She and Macron survived the first round of voting on Sunday, and will now go head to head in a run-off, slated for May 7.

    Associated with anti-Semitism, xenophobia and racism, the National Front has historically struggled to unite behind it anywhere near the majority needed to win the French presidency.

    Leaders from across the political spectrum have called on voters to keep her out of power. Her departure as party head is a conciliatory move intended to signal her commitment to nation above faction.

    Still, Le Pen lags far behind in initial polls - showing her losing to Macron by a margin of almost two-to-one - and faces tremendous obstacles on the road to the Elysee Palace, the home of the French president.

    Contact Daniel J. Solomon at solomon@forward.com or on Twitter @DanielJSolomon

    Le Pen Takes Leave As FN Head In French Presidency Bid

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