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Le Pen fails to build anti-EU voting bloc

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Le Pen fails to build anti-EU voting bloc
Marine Le Pen failed to create an anti-Europe voting bloc. Photo: Pierre Andrieu/AFP
10:15 CEST+02:00
Marine Le Pen's dream of a eurosceptic voting alliance in the EU Parliament ended this week after the leader of France's National Front failed to gather enough MEPs to build a bloc. Success would've meant millions in extra funds and important legislative powers.

It may take a little longer than Marine Le Pen hoped to carry out her vision of making the European Union "explode,” after she failed to gather together enough like-minded European Parliament parties to form a voting bloc.

The deadline to create a group came and went on Monday and the failure was confirmed in a statement from the National Front on Tuesday.

“We’ve made the choice to favour quality and consistency over ease and precipitation. Our refusal to ally ourselves with movements that have certain members who’ve demonstrated positions that are incompatible with our values, didn’t make possible the formation of a political group before the June 23 deadline,” the statement says. “We regret this in the short term, but we accept it as a moral choice and the right policy for the long term.”

Success would have required Le Pen and Dutch politician Geert Wilders to cobble together a minimum of 25 deputies drawn from seven European Union nations. If they had managed to do that European parliament rules would have guaranteed them some €2.4 million in extra party funding and the power to propose legislative amendments.  

Le Pen had been riding a wave of electoral success with her anti-immigration, eurosceptic party winning big in both the March local elections and the European Parliament voting in May. But finding partners who both support her goal of bringing down the EU, but who are not so extreme they taint her work to make the National Front more mainstream, proved too much.

Some political analysts believe the set back will not affect Le Pen too badly.

"Of course it's a blow, because it would have given her greater visibility," French politics professor Philippe Marliere told The Local. "But it's not as if Le Pen and her other anti-EU allies had ambitions to reform or be active in the parliamentary process.

"She just wanted a platform to spread her anti-EU ideas and she's on the back of an overwhelming victory in the EU elections. This set back won't change much," Marliere said.

In the end she was allied with Wilder’s Freedom Party, the Northern League of Italy, The Austrian Freedom Party and Vlaams Belang of Belgium. While these were the parties Le Pen considered conventional enough to work with, they included leaders with ties to Nazi-sympathizers and fervent anti-Islamic ideology.

Through the process of trying to found a group Le Pen suffered some high-profile refusals and embarrassments, including a verbal spat with the head of Britain’s eurosceptic party UKIP. Party head Nigel Farage said he wouldn’t join an alliance with the National Front because it was too tainted by anti-Semitism.

His comments were directed in part at the National Front’s founder and Marine Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has numerous hate speech convictions in France, including for holocaust denial. His daughter has worked hard to ‘de-demonize’ the party but it wasn’t enough for Farage.

Also a National Front candidate forced from the party not long after winning election to the European Parliament in May joined with UKIP to help it form its own voting bloc, the Europe of Freedom and Democracy. The group also includes the Swedish Democrats who had been rumoured to be negotiating with Le Pen to form a group.

However, the National Front, with its some 1,200 local councillors and 23 Euro Deputies, still has more of its people in power than ever before. Though many in the French public attribute the party's victories to low voter turnout and a French electorate seeking to punish its current leaders

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