Europe

Italy's populist 5-Star eyes anti-populist power play

FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2014 file photo, 5-Star Movement leader Beppe Grillo shows a poster in Italian reading "Out of the euro, 50,000 signatures already collected in a weekend", as he speaks during a press conference at the Foreign Press Club in Rome. Italy's populist 5-Star Movement on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017 voted to join the liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament in an about-face power play that has sent shockwaves through the European Union legislature. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis, File)

FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2014 file photo, 5-Star Movement leader Beppe Grillo shows a poster in Italian reading "Out of the euro, 50,000 signatures already collected in a weekend", as he speaks during a press conference at the Foreign Press Club in Rome. Italy's populist 5-Star Movement on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017 voted to join the liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament in an about-face power play that has sent shockwaves through the European Union legislature. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis, File)  (The Associated Press)

Italy's populist 5-Star Movement has voted to join the liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament in an about-face power play that has sent shockwaves through the European Union legislature.

In an online ballot ending Monday, 78.5 percent of 5-Star voters agreed to join ALDE. The group is headed by Belgian Guy Verhofstadt, who is seeking to become EU Parliament president in a vote next week.

The ALDE leadership will meet on the request later Monday. The 5-Star Movement left the EFDD group, where it had Britain's far-right UK Independence Party as an ally.

UKIP's Nigel Farage, referring to the 5-Star founder, said "Beppe Grillo will now join the Euro-fanatic establishment."

By getting the 5-Star Movement on board, ALDE would move from the fourth biggest group in Strasbourg to the third.