NF members loyal to Jean-Marie Le Pen stormed a party office near Marseilles held by supporters of his rival, Bruno Megret, tore down posters and removed cash and documents. Megret sympathisers across the country have received threatening phone calls and - an NF speciality - tiny wooden coffins in the post.
In retaliation, Mr Megret, the second power in the Front for the past decade, yesterday released a lengthy document accusing Mr Le Pen of nepotism and misusing party funds. "If every member knew what happened to the 260 francs (pounds 30) they hand over, often at great personal cost, they would be heart-broken," it said. It went on to accuse Mr Le Pen of using party funds to support a lavish lifestyle for his family and associates, while imposing budget cuts on local parties.
Mr Megret was stripped of his job as delegate general of the party on Wednesday after supporting a campaign for an emergency conference to allow members to choose - in effect - between him and Mr Le Pen. Yesterday, the NF President went further and suspended Mr Megret and four of his lieutenants from the party.
At a press conference heavy with bombast and paranoia (even by Mr Le Pen's standards) he said Mr Megret and his supporters were "a handful of fevered, ambitious men, backed by external forces, who wish to destroy our great resistance movement.
"France is in danger," he said, "in very great danger. And it is precisely in these grave times that ... a cell backed by very powerful capitalists close to the Elysee Palace have been conducting subversive manoeuvres within our party..."
Mr Megret denounced his suspension. His supporters said they already had 7,000 of the 12,000 signatures they need (20 per cent of NF membership) to call an emergency conference. It seems certain he will be proclaimed leader of the "democratic" NF, while Mr Le Pen continues to lead the "official" wing of the party.Reuse content