Nationalist and far-right parties rally in Milan ahead of EU vote

AfD leader Jörg Meuthen and France's Marine Le Pen were among those rallying in Italy in support of Matteo Salvini's new alliance of Europe's nationalist parties ahead of the EU elections. Austria's FPÖ stayed away.

Nationalist and far-right parties from across Europe took part in the rally in the northern Italian city of Milan on Saturday. 

Austria's Freedom Party (FPÖ) canceled its participation at the rally as Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache stepped down over a corruption scandal.

However, Alternative for Germany's (AfD) Jörg Meuthen (photo) confirmed his support for the FPÖ. "The FPÖ is our close partner," Meuthen said at the rally. He added that he would not "stab the FPÖ in the back" due to what he called a "singular issue."

Strache resigned after a secretly filmed video from 2017 appeared to show him offering someone posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch government contracts in return for political backing.

French predictions

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 in Milan on Saturday.

The leader of France's Islamophobic National Rally movement took part in a rally by 12 European nationalist parties in Milan, 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.

"Five years ago we were isolated, but today, with our allies, we will finally be in a position to change this Europe," she said.

The French politician 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."

Salvini and Le Pen were joined by Meuthen and the Dutch Freedom Party's Geert Wilders, among others.

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Hungary and Poland absent

Notably absent from the rally was 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.

Female faces of Europe's right-wing populists

France: Marine Le Pen

Marine Le Pen has led France's far-right populist National Rally party, formerly known as the National Front, since 2011. Le Pen has tried to soften her party's far-right image, going as far as to expel her own father — the party's founder — from the party after he referred to Nazi gas chambers as "a point of detail of the history of World War II."

Female faces of Europe's right-wing populists

Germany: Frauke Petry

Frauke Petry's anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant policies helped the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) enter the German parliament in 2017. She quit as leader of the AfD in September, 2017, due to what she said were extremist statements by other party leaders preventing "constructive opposition." She now sits as an independent in both the national and regional Saxony parliament in Germany.

Female faces of Europe's right-wing populists

Germany: Alice Weidel

Alice Weidel has been co-chair of the AfD since October, 2017 following Petry's departure. A 2013 email revealed Weidel describing Germany as being "overrun by culturally foreign people such as Arabs, Sinti and Roma." The email also described the government as "pigs" who were "puppets of WWII allies." Weidel's party opposes same-sex marriage, but she in a same-sex partnership herself.

Female faces of Europe's right-wing populists

Poland: Beata Szydlo

Beata Szydlo is the Deputy Prime Minister of Poland and vice chairman of the right-wing populist Law and Justice party (PiS) that holds the majority in the parliament. The party is strongly against EU migrant quotas and in 2017, then-Prime Minister Szydlo came under fire for seemingly using an appearance at former Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi German death camp to highlight her anti-migrant policies.

Female faces of Europe's right-wing populists

Norway: Siv Jensen

Siv Jensen leads Norway's Progress party, which is a part of the center-right government coalition. She promotes individual rights and freedoms, and has listed former British Conservative Party Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher among her political heroes. Jensen is an outspoken supporter of Israel, and has called to move the Norwegian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Female faces of Europe's right-wing populists

Italy: Giorgia Meloni

Co-founder and leader of the national conservative Brothers of Italy party, Giorgia Meloni has a long history in far-right politics. She joined the Youth Front, the youth-wing of the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement, at age 15. From May 2008 to November 2011 Meloni was minister of youth under Silvio Berlusconi. Her party is currently in the center-right coalition that's in power in Italy.

Pia Kjaersgaard

Female faces of Europe's right-wing populists

Denmark: Pia Kjaersgaard

Pia Kjaersgaard is co-founder of the far-right Danish People's Party, which she led from 1995 to 2012. She is known for her strong anti-multiculturalism and immigration views. Her main interests are stemming immigration into Denmark and care for the elderly. In 2003, she lost a libel suit in the Danish Supreme Court against anti-EU activist Karen Sunds who had said Kjaersgaard's views were racist.

mm,jm/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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