MILAN (Reuters) – Nationalist and far-right parties from across Europe held a rally on Saturday, led by Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, promising to reshape the continent following next week’s EU parliamentary election.
Salvini, who heads Italy’s League party, is confident his newly forged alliance will win a record number of seats at the May 23-26 vote, giving it a powerful voice in how the 28-nation European Union is run over the coming five years.
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However, the gathering in front of Milan’s gothic cathedral was overshadowed by a scandal engulfing one of Salvini’s most prominent allies, Austria’s Freedom Party, whose leader quit on Saturday as government vice-chancellor after he was videoed offering state contracts in exchange for political support.
While the beleaguered Freedom Party had to skip Saturday’s event, parties from 11 countries did show up, including France’s National Rally (RN), Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the Dutch anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV).
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“This is an historic moment,” RN leader Marine Le Pen told reporters ahead of the rally, held on a cold, wet afternoon.
“Five years ago we were isolated, but today, with our allies, we will finally be in a position to change this Europe,” she said, predicting that the new alliance would be the third biggest group in the next EU parliament, against the eighth spot that the comparable far-right group claimed last time around.
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Recent polls suggest the alliance will actually come fourth, but Le Pen said a number of other parties might eventually join it, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s...
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