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.”
Despite a rise in anti-European parties, political balances remained broadly unchanged in the European Parliament following the elections held between 22 and 25 May, with the centre-right and centre-left parties on track for a grand coalition.
The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) won 221 seats in the European parliament, followed by the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), with 189 seats (out of 751).
In the last European election, the EPP won 265 seats and the S&D 184. The Parliament was slightly larger at the time, counting a total of 766 seats.
This is the fourth consecutive victory for the EPP since the 1999 election and another disappointment for the Socialists, who failed to reverse the balance of power in Parliament, despite the popular resentment over austerity.
The centrist liberal groups could got 59 seats, Green parties 52 and the right-wing Conservatives and Reformist group, 46.
The far-left obtained 45 seats, while the far-right Europe of Freedom and Democracy group got 38.
The big question mark relates to the 41 non-attached MEPs and the 60 “other” MEPs who do not yet belong to any political grouping. Most of those belong to populist and extremist parties hostile to European integration.