If European Union right-wing populist parties coalesced into a single group, they could form the second-largest bloc in the next European Parliament, the latest poll of polls released by the EU assembly showed Thursday.
Right-wingers are currently split into three separate groups. If they were to merge, they would hold 173 out of the EU Parliament's 751 seats in the next assembly, or 23 percent, according to an aggregate of national surveys conducted ahead of May 23-26 elections. In the new survey, which assumes the number of seats in the next Parliament will remain 751 instead of dropping to 705 after Brexit, the center-right European People's Party (EPP) would remain the largest, but its share of seats would fall to 24.0 percent from the 26.7 percent forecast in March. The populists would be just seven seats shy of the first group, the center-right EPP with 180 seats, and well ahead of social democrats and liberals, projected to win 149 and 76 seats, respectively. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democrats are expected to remain the largest national party in the next legislature, holding 30 seats, down from 33. Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who leads the far-right, anti-immigration League, has urged fellow populists and Euroskeptics to unite in a single group. But it is doubtful that all of his potential allies will answer his call. According to the aggregate surveys, Salvini's League could become the second-largest national party in the EU Parliament, with 26 seats, behind Germany's ruling conservative bloc.
With Britain's participation in the elections, which might still be avoided if a Brexit deal is struck before the May 23-26 vote, the proportion of the assembly's seats held by Euroskeptics could rise to 14.3 percent from around 10 percent currently, according to the compilation of national polls. The figure was 13 percent in the previous survey in March, which did not include British voters.
The nationalist Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), which includes Italy's far-right League, would scoop up 8.3 percent of the seats in the next legislature, down from 8.7 percent. Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy, the other openly Eurosceptic grouping which currently includes the United Kingdom Independence Party, would win 6 percent of the seats from 4.3 percent predicted in March, when Britain was not expected to take part in the EU elections. The European Conservatives and Reformists grouping, which includes the Law and Justice (PiS) party of Polish Eurosceptic leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, would obtain 8.8 percent of the seats, up from 7.5 percent in the previous poll, which did not include British Conservative voters. Britain has secured an extension of Brexit to the end of October, meaning British parties have begun campaigning for the EU election.