French parties under pressure in EU parliament groups as election fallout takes toll

Negotiations ongoing as European Parliament groups seek to recruit non-aligned MEPs

Renew's heavy losses have put the position of Valerie Hayer, a French MEP who is president of the group, in doubt. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

French political parties are under pressure within their European Parliament groupings, as the fallout from the far-right victory in France in the recent elections continues to unfold in Brussels and Paris.

Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally (RN) won twice as many seats as Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Renaissance party and its allies, prompting the French president to call snap parliamentary elections.

The defeat in France contributed to the centrist Renew grouping in the European Parliament losing about a fifth of its seats.

The heavy losses have put Valerie Hayer, a French MEP who is president of the group, under pressure over her position. MEPs from Renew met in Brussels on Wednesday where it is understood the prospects of changing the leadership were discussed on the sidelines of the meeting. The French faction had “come back empty-handed” from the European elections, weakening its standing in the group, one Renew source stated.

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On Wednesday, Eric Ciotti, the leader of France’s mainstream centre-right party, Les Républicains, said he would remain in his position despite a unanimous vote by key members of his party to expel him over his proposal to form an alliance with Ms Le Pen in the aftermath of the European election. If the party did partner with Ms Le Pen’s National Rally in the parliamentary elections later this month it would face the prospect of being kicked out of its European Parliament grouping – Les Républicains sits with the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP).

Separately, the Left, which provisional results show won 36 seats, is in talks with a number of smaller parties and individual MEPs about joining the grouping, which includes Sinn Féin.

There has been some speculation that the Italian populist Five Star Movement, which has shifted more to the left of late, could join the grouping. Five Star won eight seats in the recent election but does not sit with any grouping. One source in the Left group said there has been no formal talks about the prospect of the party joining its ranks.

The election of Aodhán Ó Ríordáin for Labour in the Dublin constituency is also likely to kill off any slim prospect there had been of Sinn Féin jumping ship into the larger Socialists and Democrats (S&D ) group, where Mr Ó Ríordáin will sit.

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The EPP, which includes Fine Gael, the Christian Democratic Union in Germany, and Polish prime minister Donald Tusk’s Civic Coalition, won 189 seats in the recent elections to remain the largest grouping in the 720-seat parliament.

The centre-left S&D group won 135 seats, with the third grouping in the previous governing majority, Renew, falling from 102 to 79 seats. The Greens group saw the number of its MEPs reduced to 53.

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Nationalist and populist right-wing parties won about 160 seats. However, that is split between the hard-right European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID), and several unaligned parties.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times