Marine Le Pen Stands Down as Front National Leader

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has temporarily stood down as leader of the Front National party to focus on the upcoming election, AP reports.

The move, which has taken observers by surprise, appears to be an attempt to broaden her appeal against independent rival Emmanuel Macron and increase the number of voters who will likely back her in next month’s runoff.

Ms Le Pen announced Monday evening: “Tonight, I am no longer the president of the National Front. I am the presidential candidate.

“I will feel more free, and above partisan considerations.”

In the first round of voting, independent former Socialist Macron scored 23.9 per cent of the vote, against Ms Le Pen’s 21.4 per cent, putting them both through to the second round.

After Sunday’s vote, France’s political establishment has rallied around Mr Macron, urging voters to choose him over Ms Le Len. He has been able to present himself as an outsider by standing as an independent, despite his establishment backing.

The now former Front National leader will user her new independence to challenge him and attract new voters to her who may have been put off by her party.

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