Home News EU parliament blocks Le Pen from chairing inaugural session

EU parliament blocks Le Pen from chairing inaugural session

Published on 09/05/2009

Strasbourg — The European Parliament tweaked its house rules last week to prevent French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen from chairing the chamber at its next inaugural session.

The parliament voted massively in favour of changing a rule which calls for its inaugural sessions to be chaired by the assembly’s oldest member, which Le Pen, 80, would be if he were re-elected in June European elections.

Under the change, the previous president will preside over the parliament in its first session after elections until a new president can be decided.

The main political groups agreed in March to stop Le Pen from presiding over the chamber after he insisted that the Nazi death camps were a "detail of Second World War history," repeating a statement originally made in 1987 that shocked France.

Le Pen said at the time he was the victim of "inflammatory accusations" by the parliamentary socialist group head, German Martin Schulz, who had branded him a Holocaust denier.

"I just said that the gas chambers were a detail of Second World War history, which is clear," he told a sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

The far-right firebrand, who has several past convictions for racism and anti-Semitism, shocked Europe in 2002 by coming in second in the French presidential elections.

He gathered around 10 percent of votes in the last French presidential race in 2007.

Le Pen was fined 1.2 million francs (185,000 euros, 290,000 dollars) for making the initial remarks in a radio interview in 1987.

Le Pen, who will celebrate his 81st birthday in June, has been a member of the European Parliament since 1984.