French National Front leader Marine Le Pen formed a political group in the European Parliament, highlighting the rise of protest parties across Europe after last year’s legislative elections.
Most of the National Front’s 23-strong delegation in the European Union assembly will be joined by members from Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland and the U.K. The alliance, which excludes two National Front members of the EU Parliament including Le Pen’s father, is called the Europe of Nations and Freedoms. It has 37 members.
Political groups in the 28-nation Parliament must have at least 25 members from a minimum of seven countries. Groups have greater legislative clout, receive more funds and get better time slots for plenary debates than do non-aligned members.
Protest parties boosted their share of seats in EU Parliament elections in May 2014 to about 30 percent from 20 percent in the previous vote five years earlier, getting a lift from public disenchantment over Europe’s debt crisis.
The anti-euro, anti-immigration National Front won the most seats of any French party in the 751-member European assembly. The U.K. Independence Party, which is campaigning for Britain to leave the EU, gained the most British seats.
In the wake of last year’s European elections, Le Pen was outmaneuvered by UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who succeeded in forming an EU Parliament faction called the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group. That alliance is underpinned by UKIP’s 22-strong delegation in the EU Parliament.
UKIP’s members had numbered 24. One of them, Janice Atkinson, was expelled from the party and suspended from the EFDD group earlier this year over an expenses controversy and has become a member of Le Pen’s new alliance.
Another former UKIP member, Amjad Bashir, switched to the Conservative Party of U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and joined its alliance in the EU Parliament, the European Conservatives and Reformists group.