Le Pen Struggles to Find Allies; Farage Finds Italian Friend

The Euroskeptic bloc led by France’s Marine Le Pen finds itself short of allies.

United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage speaks in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, December 13, 2011
United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage speaks in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, December 13, 2011 (European Parliament/Pietro Naj-Oleari)

France’s Marine Le Pen and the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders are struggling to find enough supporters in the European Parliament to form a Euroskeptic bloc of their own while the group led by Britain’s Nigel Farage appeared to have won a new member on Wednesday: Italy’s Five Star Movement.

Farage, whose United Kingdom Independence Party doubled its seats in this weekend’s election, making his the largest British party in the European Parliament, met Italy’s Beppe Grillo in Brussels where the two pledged to “immediately begin discussions” to form an alliance.

Grillo’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement came in second to Italy’s ruling Partito Democratico in the European election. While it has refused to enter any coalitions at home, it seeks a referendum on the country’s membership of the euro which Grillo believes is responsible for Italy’s economic hardships. Farage wants Britain to simply pull out of the European Union altogether.

To be recognized as a political group in the European Parliament, at least 25 members from seven different countries are needed. In the new legislature, UKIP will have 24 seats. The Five Star Movement will have seventeen.

Farage needs the Five Star Movement because his current Italian ally, the separatist Lega Nord, is leaving his group to join Le Pen and Wilders.

Euroskeptic competition

Le Pen’s Front national became the largest French party in the European Parliament with 24 seats. Wilders’ Freedom Party surprisingly lost one seat and will have four.

Their allies include Austria’s Freedom Party, which will also have four seats, and Belgium’s separatist Vlaams Belang, with just one seat.

In a news conference on Wednesday, Wilders acknowledged that he was two countries short, but, he said, “I’m confident that we can do it.”

Le Pen argued, “We have five nationalities already out of the seven that we need, so it’s a pretty solid basis for us to form a group.”

The Sweden Democrats, with two seats, are a likely ally. But adding them would alienate the Danish People’s Party, which is more likely to join either Farage’s bloc or the European Conservatives and Reformists instead: the mildly Euroskeptic group that is led by Britain’s Conservatives and the Polish Law and Justice party. It is also in talks with the German anti-euro party Alternative für Deutschland, which won seven seats.

There are nationalists from Belgium, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia still looking for a European group to join, but it looks like most will prefer either the Conservatives and Reformists or Farage’s Europe of Freedom and Democracy over the more xenophobic bloc of Le Pen and Wilders.

Greece’s Golden Dawn and Hungary’s Jobbik, fascist parties that won three seats each, are beyond the pale for all groups.

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