Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement last night (12 June) voted overwhelmingly in an online referendum to join the UK Independence Party led Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group in the new European Parliament.
The Internet vote gave registered Five Star supporters the choice of the EFD, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) or tio remain unaffiliated. 78% of Five Star members, or 23,121 people, voted to join Farage's group. Only 10%, or 2,930 people, voted for the ECR.
Farage said, "I am extremely pleased. I look forward to working with Five Star Movement very much, to provide a genuine voice of opposition in the European Parliament. We will be the people's voice."
Five Star bring 17 MEPS to the EFD, which according to a blog emtry by Beppe Grillo, is "open to changing its name." The same blog also highlighted that Five Star MEPs would be free to vote according to their principles. This is important because of the political differences between UKIP and Grillo's party.
As things now stand, the EFD will have 44 seats. To qualify as a group, it still needs support from three national delegations who are not already represented in the Eurosceptic bloc
Five Star's support is an important victory, as without it, the EFD faced an uncertain struggle to qualify. Former members The Danish People's Party and the Finns Party had defected to the ECR and the Lega Nord to Marine Le Pen's alliance of far right parties. The EFD was forced to deny other parties were also thinking of quitting (here).
Ahead of the poll, both Farage and new ECR Chairman Syed Kamall recorded YouTube videos, asking Five Star members for their support. Shortly before the poll closed, Farage's video had been viewed 2,047 times compared to Kamall's 15 views.
In his video Farage warned, "Remember the Conservative chancellor [George Osborne] says that it is the inexorable logic of the euro that all those countries involved must sign up to a fiscal compact and must begin to build what will be a United States of Europe."