Le Pens grip on far-right party may be slipping over legal woes

The statement has already earned him stiff fines in France.

Earlier this month, the European Parliament — of which Le Pen is a member — voted by an overwhelming majority to lift his immunity, opening the way for such a trial in Germany.

Meanwhile, Le Pen is still awaiting a French appeals court decision on whether to uphold a two-year ban on his serving in public office because of an assault he made on a Socialist politician who ran against his daughter Caroline during France's 1997 parliamentary elections.

A video taken at the scene of the incident showed Le Pen tussling with the Socialist incumbent, Annette Peulvast, who subsequently defeated Le Pen's daughter.

If the appeals court decides to maintain the ban when it issues its ruling next month, Le Pen will be unable to lead his party's list in next June's elections to the European Parliament, which serves as the European Union's legislative body.

This would likely add fuel to an ongoing clash over Le Pen's future leadership of the Front.

Le Pen, 70, has already announced his plans to have his wife, Jany, lead the party list if his appeal is rejected. Other Front officials have chosen a similar course in the past, having their spouses run in their stead after they have been banned from seeking office.

But the party's No. 2 official, Bruno Megret, has stated that he should lead the party list if the appeal goes against Le Pen, saying that to put Jany Le Pen at the top of the ticket was "a bad idea."

He later backed down, but the damage was done: Megret had made the first public challenge to Le Pen's leadership since he created the movement in 1972.

Political commentators have said Le Pen's legal predicaments are unlikely to dissuade voters from supporting him, although they could prompt more challenges from within the party.