French extreme-right National Front party leader, Marine Le Pen, which could become the first party in France in Sunday’s European elections according to polls, hopes to send between 16 and 20 members to the next 751-member European Parliament compared to 3 in the outgoing assembly.
According to a poll by Ipsos-Steria for Le Monde newspaper, Marine Le Pen’s anti-EU and anti-immigrant National Front could get 24% of the vote, compared to just 22% for the centre-right UMP, and 17.5% for the ruling Socialist Party.
Marine Le Pen, who has campaigned under the slogan “No to Brussels, yes to France,” declared that she wanted to be the Vice-President of a new anti-EU group in the European Parliament.
“I will suggest a group with a Vice-President similar to what exists in other European Parliament groups,” she said.
“Considering the importance of France, especially because of the amount of French MEPs, I believe I could be the Vice-President of this group.”
She also declared that she wanted “to have a group, carry out amendments in plenary sessions and grant reports, all of which cannot be done when you are non-attached, especially if you are from the National Front.”
Current forecasts say that the National Front will win 16 seats in the European Parliament, out of 74 seats reserved for France. This would make it the biggest French party delegation in Strasbourg, and put Marine Le Pen in a strong position to form an extreme-right parliamentary group.
Eurosceptic parties could take more than a third of seats in European parliament to form ‘blocking minority’.
But other like-minded European parties have not yet stepped up to the plate.
Some parties have completely refused any alliance with the National Front, including the British eurosceptic party UKIP led by Nigel Farage, and the German Alternatif für Deutschland party (AfD).
Farage twice rejected offers from Le Pen to join a formal coalition in the European Parliament but instead suggested he could be on same side of many Eurosceptic battles in Brussels in order to block European legislation..
Instead, Farage has established informal ties with the much smaller French party Debout la Republique (Republic Stand Up), which is not certain to win any seats.
At the same time, the National Front has chosen to distance itself from other extreme-right European parties that it deems too extremist, such as the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece or anti-Semitic Jobbik in Hungary. And other parties are still on the fence, such as the Sweden Democrats.
According to Viviane Teitelbaum, a member of the regional parliament in Brussels, extremist parties in Europe have become “more polished, more professional in communication and have changed their way of saying things so they don’t appear as extremist as they are.’’
She gave the example of Marine Le Pen who, she said, “doesn’t use the same language against democracy in general as her father Jean-Marie Le Pen was using. … She does not deny the Holocaust like her father did. But it is a matter of time.”
Jean Marie Le Pen, who is outgoing MEP along with her daughter, has been convicted several times forf hate speech and Holocaust denial.
Nigel Farage, who ruled out an alliance with the FN, saying the party was too tainted by anti-Semitism, has been himself battling allegations that UKIP is an explicitly racist party.
One of the National Front’s main problems will be finding common ground between the seven nationalities required to form a group.
This leaves Marine Le Pen with a short list of likely allies, including the Freedom Party of Austria, the Vlaams Belang from Belgium, Order and Justice from Lithuania or even the Slovak National Party. All those could ally with the National Front, which would ensure the minimum number of nationalities required to form a group.
Seven nationalities and a minimum of 25 MEPs are the two fundamental requirements to form a group according to the Parliament’s in-house rules.
Jewish groups have warned against the rise of extremist, racist and anti-Semitic parties within the next European Parliament.
The parliament should establish a “no platform policy toward those parties to ensure that they are completely marginalized in the decision-making process,” said Ronald Lauder, President of the European Jewish Congress.
The president of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), Moshe Kantor, warned that anti-establishment and anti-European parties on the extreme left and extreme right are a danger to “all Europeans, including Jews.”
The EJC released last week a video calling for electors across the European member states to mobilize European voters to vote ‘’for Europe’’.
The non-partisan video, which features the various freedoms, guaranteed by the European Union, details the values upon which the Union was formed and asks electors across the 28 member bloc to engage positively with the issues presented at elections this week.
“The European Union has preserved the peace on this continent for 70 years. We don’t have the right to kill it with our apathy,” Kantor said.
He added: “This is our Europe, based on core values of democracy, human rights and tolerance. Sometimes we take these values too much for granted. People across Europe and particularly from the new nations who joined during the enlargement process fought to achieve these rights. As a people who know all too well the dangers when a society ceases to cooperate with its neighbours and turns inward to nationalism, we call upon our fellow citizens to engage for a better Europe.’’
On Thursday, voters in Holland and the UK have been the first European citizens to cast their ballots, the start of four days of voting in the 28 member countries. Other countries will vote on Friday but will do this on Sunday.
There will be no official results anywhere in the EU until 23:00 in Brussels (2100 GMT) on Sunday.
Since the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament has much more power now than it used to have. It is a co-legislator, with the EU government ministers, in most policy areas and it must approve any candidate put forward for the important post of European Commission President, the EU’s executive branch.
The UK has 73 seats in the parliament EU’s only directly elected body – the UK will have 73 seats, the Netherlands 26.
The seats are allocated in proportion to a country’s population. Germany has the biggest number of MEPs (96), followed by France (74).