PARIS (Reuters) – The French far-right National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, admitted defeat on Tuesday after failing to win wide enough support to form a political group in the European Parliament.
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Le Pen's anti-EU, anti-immigrant party caused a sensation in EU-wide elections in May when it topped the poll in France with 24.95 percent, beating both President Francois Hollande's Socialists and the center-right UMP opposition.
Before the vote, Le Pen told Reuters a major objective was to form a group in parliament, which would have secured at least 20 million euros ($27.2 million) in funds, staff and speaking time. Le Pen said after the vote that she had "no doubt" the National Front would soon be able to do so.
But hours before Tuesday night's deadline, she was two countries short of the required representation from seven nations - highlighting the far-right populists' difficulties in agreeing among themselves.
"We have no group, for the time being in any case," National Front vice-president Florian Philippot told Reuters.
Le Pen was out-maneuvered by UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, who refused to enter an alliance with her due to what he called the National Front's legacy of anti-Semitism.
Farage formed a Eurosceptic parliamentary group with 48 lawmakers last week, after poaching a National Front defector who Le Pen had tried to unseat after she advocated giving non-EU foreigners the right to vote in local elections.
Le Pen lost her key partner, Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders, after she held talks with a far-right Polish nationalist party. Wilders rejected any contact with Poland's KNP party, whose leader Janusz Korwin-Mikke has opposes women having the vote and says there is no proof Adolf Hitler knew of the extermination of the Jews.
Le Pen's failure to form a parliamentary block could exacerbate a public feud her 86-year-old father, Jean-Marie, who said his daughter was wrong to have avoided alliances with other far-right parties.
"It seems some people are considered more or less beyond the pale judged by criteria which are not ones I would use," the elder Le Pen told Sud Radio. Le Pen senior founded the FN and is still its honorary president.
Father and daughter fell out recently after he used a term linked to the French word 'oven' when talking about a Jewish singer. Critics and Jewish groups said his remark was an implicit and cynical reference to Nazi death camps.