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4th Dec 2022

EP chief to quiz Le Pen on voting fraud

  • Dutch MEP De Graaff (l) admitted he voted on behalf of Le Pen (r) (Photo: European Parliament)

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen is going to be heard by the European Parliament president next week over allegations of voting fraud in the assembly.

A meeting between the National Front leader and Martin Schulz could take place next Wednesday (16 December) during the plenary session in Strasbourg.

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Sources in the Parliament told EUobserver the date of the meeting still has to be confirmed. Le Pen's office said her planning would depend on the results of Sunday's regional elections in France.

Schulz will listen to Le Pen's explanations on why one or two other MEPs from her Europe of Nations and Freedom group voted on her behalf, which is forbidden.

The case concerns a plenary vote on 28 October, when Le Pen is recorded as having voted after she had already left the chamber.

Her group co-leader, Dutch MEP Marcel de Graaff already admitted he used Le Pen's voting card and could face sanctions.

A second MEP from the group, France's Nicolas Bay, was also seen voting on behalf of Le Pen but he denied it.

'Not the target'

The Europe of Nations and Freedom was created in June when Le Pen was able to gather far-right MEPs from seven countries. She is the group leader, together with De Graaff, from Geert Wilders' PVV party.

De Graaff and Bay were already heard by Schulz. Schulz "now wants to hear Le Pen's version about what happened in an incident that has been signalled," a source said.

"She is not the target, but it would be good if she could bring clarity on what happened," a second source said.

Le Pen is believed to have not requested the vote on her behalf. She explained she usually leaves her voting card at her MEP seat when she leaves the assembly room.

EP president Schulz is acting according to the parliament internal rule, which states that: "In exceptionally serious cases of disorder or disruption of Parliament … the president, after hearing the member concerned, shall adopt a reasoned decision laying down the appropriate penalty".

Timing

He will decide after hearing the three people involved in the case whether and what kind of sanctions he will take. Sanctions can go from a reprimand to a temporary suspension from Parliament's activities to a suspension or removal from the offices held by the MEP.

The news of a hearing of Le Pen by Schulz was leaked by French daily Les Echos just three days before the second round of elections in France. Le Pen's National Front came first in the first round on 6 December, generating debates on how to prevent it from winning regional governments.


But parliament sources downplayed the timing, telling EUobserver the process has been going on since the voting fraud has been revealed. Le Pen's office declined to comment.

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