The former far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen has embarrassed his politician daughter by dismissing the Oslo massacre as an "accident" caused by the "naivety" of Norway's government. His comments appeared – not for the first time – to undermine efforts by Marine Le Pen to bring the National Front into the French political mainstream.
Remarks by other NF officials which minimised, or praised, the slaughter, have been angrily disowned by Ms Le Pen, party president since January. She faced calls yesterday from left-wing politicians and anti-racist groups to prove her "moderate" credentials by repudiating her father's remarks.
In his weekly broadcast blog on the NF website, Mr Le Pen, 83, its honorary life president, said the massacre was "serious" because it revealed the "naivety" of a "pleasant little country" which had not grasped the dangers of "massive immigration". The actions of Anders Behring Breivik were just an "accident, involving one person, acting from perhaps temporary madness".
His comments came as Ms Le Pen was attempting to put out a series of brush fires of support for Breivik within the NF. Jacques Coutela, a candidate in elections in Burgundy last spring, has been suspended by the party after describing Breivik as "a resistance leader, an icon ... fighting against the Muslim invasion". A more senior NF official, Laurence Ozon, was disowned by Ms Le Pen after saying that the "Oslo drama" could be explained by an "immigration explosion" in Norway.
Since this is little different from Mr Le Pen's comments, his daughter faces a political, and personal, dilemma. Is her father now a dissident within the party he founded? Or are the Le Pens deliberately playing hard and soft cop to attract as many votes as possible in next year's presidential elections?
The Socialist former Europe minister, Pierre Moscovici, yesterday called on Ms Le Pen to "break her deafening silence" and repudiate the "negationist tone" of her father's remarks. Breivik was "not a madman but a fanatic, which is quite different", Mr Moscovici said.
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