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French election: Marine Le Pen stepping down as leader of National Front party

French far-right presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen has announced that she is temporarily stepping down as her party's leader.

Monday's move appears to be an attempt to appeal to a wider range of potential voters.

"Tonight, I am no longer the president of the National Front. I am the presidential candidate," she said on French television.

Ms Le Pen has said in the past that she is not a candidate of her party, and made that point when she rolled out her platform in February, saying the measures she was espousing were not her party's, but her own.

She has worked to bring in voters from the left and right for several years, cleaning up her party's racist, anti-Semitic image to do so.

Le Pen came second in the first round of the French Presidential election, putting her through to the final run-off against centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron in the May 7 vote.

The election is widely seen as a litmus test for the populist wave which last year prompted the UK to vote to leave the European Union and led to Donald Trump being elected US president.

The defeated far-left candidate, Jean-Luc Melenchon, pointedly refused to back Mr Macron, and Ms Le Pen's National Front was hoping to do the once-unthinkable and gain the support of voters historically opposed to a party long tainted by racism and anti-Semitism.

Opinion polls had indicated that Mr Macron will win at least 61% of votes.

Le Pen is the daughter of  Jean Marie Le Pen. He founded the National Front and led the party from 1972 until 2011.

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