France’s far-right firebrand Marine Le Pen says populist parties could become the second-largest bloc in the European Parliament. Twelve nationalist parties are rallying in Milan ahead of next week’s EU-wide vote.
Far-right populist parties will “pass from 8th place to third or second” in next week’s European Parliament elections, France’s Marine Le Pen predicted on Saturday.
The leader of France’s Islamophobic National Rally movement was speaking ahead of a rally by 12 European nationalist parties in Milan later in the day, organized by Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who is also the leader of the anti-immigrant League Party.
Le Pen said she believes the Europe of Nations and Freedom parliamentary group “will perform a historic feat” in the May 23-26 vote and break the dominance of the two traditional center-right and center-left political groups in the European Parliament.
She said a “super faction” she wants to form with the other European far-righters in the next Parliament could alter the structure of the European Union for the “first time in decades.”
Thousands of League supporters were due to march towards Milan’s landmark Duomo cathedral on Saturday afternoon to hear speeches by several far-right party leaders.
Salvini and Le Pen were to be joined by the Alternative for Germany’s (AfD) Jörg Meuthen and the Dutch Freedom Party’s Geert Wilders, among others.
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Salvini, whose populists share power in Italy with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, has led efforts to create a pan-European alliance of far-righters seeking to upend EU politics ahead of next week’s European Parliament elections.
The 12 far-right parties hope their Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group will become the third-largest in Brussels.
Opinion polls predict that the League will go from six MEPs to 26, Le Pen’s RN from 15 to 20 and the AfD from one to 11.
Hungary and Poland absent
Notably absent from the rally will be Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party and Poland’s governing PiS (Law and Justice party).
Orban has voiced admiration for Salvini and promised “cooperation” after the vote, but refuses an alliance with Le Pen.
Meanwhile, the controversy over a leaked video of Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache appearing to offer government contracts in exchange for political support has forced the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) to cancel its participation.
The far-right gathering is also expected to attract a counterdemonstration and displays of hanging banners from buildings critical of Salvini.
mm/tj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)