PARIS (Reuters) – The right-hand man of French National Front leader Marine Le Pen said he was quitting the party, raising the prospect of a split in the far-right’s ranks after Le Pen’s defeat in the May presidential election and months of internal feuding.
Florian Philippot, vice-president of the anti-immigrant and euro-hostile party, used an early morning appearance on French television to announce a departure that had looked increasingly inevitable as tensions with Le Pen hit boiling point.
Philippot is seen as the champion of the party’s opposition to the euro and its pledges to quit the shared currency – one of the policies believed to have badly damaged Marine Le Pen in the May election where she was beaten by centrist Emmanuel Macron.
Philippot, whose responsibilities for strategy and communications were earlier removed by Le Pen, told France 2 television that he did not like being sidelined.
“I‘m not into being ridiculed. Yes, of course, I am quitting the National Front,” he said.
The party, which has made major inroads in local, regional and European elections, is due to hold a major congress at the turn of the year where internal divergences in the wake of its ballot box defeat to Macron and his new party are set to come to a head.
Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain, Sudip Kar-Gupta and Brian Love; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg