Le Pen steps aside as party leader
Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has announced that she is stepping aside as leader of her National Front (FN) party.
The move comes just a day after she reached the second round of the French election, where she will face centrist Emmanuel Macron.
Ms Le Pen told French TV she needed to be above partisan considerations.
Opinion polls suggest Mr Macron is firm favourite for the second round but Ms Le Pen said: “We can win, we will win.”
The French term she used signalled that the move to step aside would be temporary.
She told France 2 that France was approaching a “decisive moment”.
Ms Le Pen said her decision had been made out of the “profound conviction” that the president of the republic must bring together all of the French people.
“So, this evening, I am no longer the president of the National Front. I am the candidate for the French presidency,” she said.
The BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris says this is a symbolic act intended to show her concerns are for the country as a whole and not for her party, and that she is reaching out for the voters of candidates defeated in the first round, particularly those of the Republicans’ François Fillon.
The polling average line looks at the five most recent national polls and takes the median value, ie, the value between the two figures that are higher and two figures that are lower.
Ms Le Pen took over the FN leadership from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in January 2011.
She won 7.6 million votes on Sunday – the strongest ever result for a FN candidate, and 2.8 million more than her father won in 2002.
Her party wants to slash immigration, clamp down on free trade, and overturn France’s relationship with Europe.
Her campaign has called for:
- Negotiation with Brussels on a new EU, followed by a referendum
- “Automatic” expulsion of illegal immigrants and legal immigration cut to 10,000 per year following an immediate total moratorium
- “Extremist” mosques closed and priority to French nationals in social housing
- Retirement age fixed at 60 and 35-hour week assured
Mr Macron, a former economy minister, is widely expected to win the run-off vote on 7 May.
On Monday, he won the backing of President Hollande, to go with that of two defeated candidates.
President Hollande said the far-right would threaten the rupture of Europe, “profoundly divide France” and “faced with such a risk, I will vote for Emmanuel Macron”.
He said his former economy minister would “defend the values which will bring French people together at such an important moment, a serious time for Europe, the world and France”.
Mr Fillon and Socialist Benoît Hamon both urged their supporters to vote for Mr Macron.
Mr Macron, 39, has never stood for election before, and if he wins would become France’s youngest-ever president.
His campaign promises include:
- Cut 120,000 public sector jobs and bring down the budget deficit
- A €50bn (£43bn; $53bn) public investment plan to cover job-training and shift to renewable energy
- Slash corporation tax from 33% to 25% and let companies renegotiate 35-hour week. Unify the pension system
- Bolster EU ties and the eurozone, higher tariffs to protect European industry, common border force