Marine Le Pen triumphed in the European elections in France, but may be the loser in a scramble to form anti-EU groups in the EU assembly.
A day before the deadline, Ms Le Pen has yet to form the partnership with six other nations that she needs to create an official group in the European Parliament.
Marine Le Pen’s estranged father Jean-Marie Le Pen said on Friday that the Front National has secretly reached deals with the two further allies that it needs. The party refused to confirm this on Sunday.
Other party officials seem to be preparing the ground for failure. Florian Philippot, the FN secretary general, said that it “would not really be a disaster” if its 24 MEPs were not in an official group. “Our patriotic mission is to defend France and the French,” he said.
Failure might not be a disaster for the FN, but it would be an embarrassment. It would, in effect, hand the Europhobic leadership in the Parliament to Nigel Farage and Ukip.
The creation of an officially recognised political group requires 25 members from seven nations. Official groups have more money and influence. They carve up the best committee places. They have better access to speaking time and can claim extra European taxpayers’ money to finance their administration.
Negotiations between hard right parties since the European elections last month have resembled a cross between musical chairs and speed dating. The scramble to find halfway presentable partners before the music ends tomorrow has so far been a victory for Ukip and for the Tories.
The Tories will dominate an official group which also includes moderate Belgian Flemish separatists.
Nigel Farage and Ukip will lead another group, which ranges from Beppe Grillo’s anti-politics Five Star movement. Ukip has refused to enter a grand alliance with Ms Le Pen, claiming her party still has racism and anti-semitism “in its DNA”. Ms Le Pen claims to run a cleaned up and patriotic party and refuses to have anything to do with neo-Nazi parties like Golden Dawn in Greece or Jobbik in Hungary.
Ms Le Pen can easily meet the numerical quota. The FN is already in alliance with parties from four countries: Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party in the Netherlands, the Austrian Freedom Party, the Italian Northern League and the more xenophobic of the two Flemish independence movements, Vlams Belang in Belgium.
Ms Le Pen’s two last recruits are likely to include a Polish party whose leader, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, recently suggested Hitler had no knowledge of the murder of Jews during the Second World War. Since she recently attacked her father for making alleged jibes at the Holocaust, Ms Le Pen may find it hard to explain why she is sitting with Mr Korwin-Mikke in Strasbourg. Negotiations with the Poles are said to have been complicated by Mr Wilders’ aversion to anti-semitism and homophobia.
The division of the Europhobic forces in the Parliament into three competing groups will limit their chances – never strong – of delaying or wrecking EU legislation.