Marine Le Pen: France presidential election hopeful says she is 'temporarily stepping down' as National Front leader

Chloe Chaplain, Francesca Gillett

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

The National Front leader had advanced to the second round of France’s presidential election along with centrist Emmanuel Macron.

But in a surprise move on Monday - just one day after the first round vote - Ms Le Pen appeared to distance herself from the party.

On French TV news she said: “Tonight, I am no longer the president of the National Front. I am the presidential candidate.”

Ms Le Pen has said in the past that she is not a candidate of her party, and emphasised her measures were not her party's, but her own.

Head-to-head: Emmanuel Macron will meet Marine Le Pen in the runoff. (AFP/Getty Images)

Commentators tonight speculated the move could be Ms Le Pen further distancing herself from the party in a bid to embrace a wider spread of voters ahead of the May 7 election.

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.

Final voting figures from the weekend's first round had put frontrunner Mr Macron top with 23.7 per cent share of the vote and Ms Le Pen, the far-right candidate, just behind on 21.5 per cent.

The other candidates conceded defeat by 8pm on Sunday.

In a tweet, Ms Le Pen said she had taken leave from her role as leader of the National Front and was now only the presidential candidate.

The ex-National Front leader's vision for France calls for tougher security, closed borders and a drop in immigration.

She also heralded Britain's vote for Brexit and wants France to follow suit.

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