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Populists Lead Ranking of Most Influential EU Parliament Politicians

(L)Italy's Interior Minister and deputy PM Matteo Salvini smiles during a press conference to present the new economic law at the end of the Minister Council at Palazzo Chigi, in Rome, on January 17, 2019. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP) (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images) (R) LONDON, …
ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Leon Neal/Getty
VICTORIA FRIEDMAN

Establishment news website Politico has ranked Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage as the top two MEPs who mattered in the 2014 to 2019 EU Parliament.

Mr Salvini, before leading his League party to election victory in Italy’s 2018 general election, was a Member of European Parliament (MEP) for nearly ten years and was ranked number one on Politico’s list of the “40 MEPs who mattered” in the 2014-2019 parliamentary term, which rates those MEPs who “set the agenda and stood out from their peers, driving trends both within the legislative arena and in the wider EU political debate.”

Now out of the EU parliament and serving as interior minister and deputy prime minister in Italy, the website highlighted Mr Salvini’s “talent for plain speaking and using social media (not to mention the Euroscepticism) that propelled him to his current position as Italy’s de facto leader, where he has been driving the European debate from the right ever since.”

The young Italian “de facto leader” is set to continue to wield power in the EU chambers after this week launching a political supergroup with right-populists, conservatives, and anti-establishment parties across the bloc, notably the Danish People’s Party, the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD), the True Finns party, the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), and the French National Rally.

Salvini hopes to form the biggest group in the European Parliament to unseat the establishment centrist European People’s Party and “change the rules of Europe” by halting the progressive, federalist project and returning the union to a Europe of nations.

“Our goal is to finally be a governing force and a force of change,” Salvini said.

The populist-right is set to make major gains in the May 23rd to 26th elections, with Salvini’s League alone set to increase its presence to 22 seats, the Sweden Democrats are projected to double their seats in the parliament, while French and German populists are said to be dominating chatter amongst voters on social media.

Meanwhile, Politico put former UKIP leader and current Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage in the number two slot — technically, then, the top MEP on the list still in office — describing the Brexiteer as “the star speechmaker of the 2014-2019 Parliament.”

In response to the government’s confirmation Monday that the UK would be taking part in the EP elections, Mr Farage announced that the Brexit Party would be officially launching on Friday and would seek to unseat the political establishment and “fight back against the betrayal of democracy.”

A poll by Open Europe published Wednesday found the nascent party was in third place behind Labour and the Conservatives, with think tank director Henry Newman observing that “Conservative support in these elections appears to have been significantly squeezed” by the emergence of the Brexit Party, with support likely to grow in coming weeks as name recognition increases.

UKIP is set to come out swinging in May’s elections as well, with party leader Gerard Batten saying, after Prime Minister Theresa May secured another Brexit delay to Hallowe’en, that his party “will fight in every UK region including Northern Ireland as the authentic voice of Brexit, with a message of unilateral, unconditional withdrawal, no ifs or buts.

“The 17.4 million people who voted for Brexit will have the opportunity to send a message to the traitorous Tories and others in the political establishment — we voted for Brexit, now make it happen!”

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