French Court Rules in Favor of Jean-Marie Le Pen Over Daughter Marine

France's far-right National Front political party leader Marine Le Pen (R) watches as her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, party founder and honorary president, reacts on the podium at their traditional May Day tribute to Joan of Arc in Paris, France, May 1, 2015. Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

PARIS (Reuters) - A French court on Tuesday blocked French National Front leader Marine Le Pen's efforts to strip her maverick father Jean-Marie Le Pen of the title of honorary president of the party, in a new setback to the far-right leader.

By sidelining her father in the party he founded four decades ago, Marine Le Pen had sought to prevent the outspoken 86-year-old from ruining her bid for power as she eyes France's 2017 presidential election.

But a court of appeal in Versailles upheld a previous ruling that the postal vote of party members she used to determine the fate of her father was against the party's rules, insisting she would have to hold an actual congress instead.

The National Front said in a statement it was surprised by the court's decision and would still go ahead with the counting of the vote and would make its result public because of its "undeniable political significance."

Marine Le Pen had already expressed incredulity at the idea she should organize a convention for the party's 50,000-plus members on this issue.

"What am I supposed to do, hire the Stade de France maybe?" she was recently quoted as saying in local media, referring to France's 80,000-seat national stadium on the outskirts of Paris.

The drama at the National Front erupted in April when Le Pen senior reiterated past comments that the Nazi gas chambers were a mere detail of history and defended Philippe Petain, the wartime French leader who cooperated with Nazi Germany.

Weeks of squabbling via the media ensued, with the daughter accusing the father of political suicide and the father publicly suspecting she would like him dead anyway.