The National Front has suspended its founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in a dramatic climax to the war that pits the French far-right politician against his daughter and its current party leader, Marine.
The FN's executive committee, which convened on Monday to discuss sanctions against Mr Le Pen for his comments on Nazi gas chambers last month, decided that his role as honorary chairman should be suppressed, the party said in a statement. The plan, however, will be put to a final vote in a general assembly, which will take place within three months.
"With this prospect, the political committee will convene to elaborate and propose a more complete renovation of the National Front's bylaws," the party said. A party that is "modernised in its functioning and perfected in its structures" will be able to prepare for the next elections "in excellent conditions," it added.
The sanction is the latest development in a public row between the 86-year-old politician and his daughter, who succeeded her father in 2011. It has highlighted a fracture between the old guard and a new generation around Ms Le Pen, who has sought to tone down xenophobic rhetoric to capture a wider electorate.
Jean-Marie Le Pen called the FN's decision "felony" on Monday. "I don't acknowledge any link with someone who betrays me in such a scandalous manner," Mr Le Pen told Europe 1 radio station. "I am ashamed that the president of the National Front bears my name and I want her to lose it as soon as possible." He suggested she marry Louis Aliot, 45, or Florian Philippot, 33, two of the vice-presidents of the party.
Ms Le Pen who, unlike her father, is eyeing the presidency, has achieved strong electoral gains over the past year, lately attracting about a quarter of the votes ahead of the ruling Socialist party in local elections. Some polls have suggested she could beat President François Hollande in the second round of the presidential elections in 2017. Her father, who has been convicted for anti-semitic comments, has increasingly appeared as an obstacle in this strategy.
Soon after saying that gas chambers had been a "detail" in the history of the second world war, Mr Le Pen, who founded the FN in 1972, gave in to his daughter's demand to withdraw his candidacy in the regional elections, which are taking place in December.
The party's decision to clearly distance itself from its founder comes as French judicial authorities consider opening an investigation into allegations that Mr Le Pen concealed funds in a Swiss bank account. Tracfin, the state intelligence agency, which investigates money laundering and terrorism funding, raised its suspicions with prosecutors last week, a move that coincided with a report by Mediapart, an investigative news website, alleging Mr Le Pen could have been the ultimate beneficiary of an HSBC Swiss bank account with €2.2m of funds, mostly in gold bars and coins.