The ALDE Group of Liberals was tonight (17 June) joined by 12 MEPs from four parties, making it the third largest group in the European Parliament with 67 seats.

Belgium’s Flemish separatist Party the N-VA's four MEPs is also likely to join, bringing ALDE’s total number to 71. Its application for membership is pending, ALDE’s spokesman said on Twitter.

The N-VA, domestic rivals with Belgian liberal members of ALDE, have left the European Free Alliance group in favour of ALDE.  The N-VA, previously a member of the European Free Alliance group, was also negotiating with the UK Conservative-led European Conservatives and Reformists (here).

Until the vote, which was passed with a two thirds majority, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) looked set to claim ALDE’s traditional kingmaker role (here) as the third group in the Parliament. The ECR has 63 seats and poached support from Nigel Farage’s Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group (here).

ECR MEP Struan Stevenson was bullish about the group’s future influence on European politics on election night, predicting it would become a kingmaker in a hung Parliament on election night (here).

The Czech Republic’s ANO , Spain’s Unión Progreso y Democracia and Ciudadonos parties, and Portugal’s Partido da Terra are the other parties joining the faction. ANO brings four MEPs, as does the Unión Progreso y Democracia . Ciudadonos brings two and the Portuguese party two.

The ALDE Group also elected Guy Verhofstadt, their Eu Parliament election leading candidate as president. Verhofstadt had predicted the Liberals would stay as the Parliament’s third biggest force.

MEPs in the new European Parliament are forming groups of parties. The groups qualify for EU funding and influential committee posts. In order to form, a group must have at least 25 MEPs from seven different member states.