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Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has pledged to unite Europe’s far-right into an international alliance of populists, and the European Parliamentary elections will be the first test of whether his strategy is bearing fruit.

In Italy last month, nationalist politician Matteo Salvini, a longtime ally of Bannon and the head of the anti-immigration League Party, announced that he would head a new European populist alliance into the European parliamentary elections. It is still unclear exactly what type of group Salvini’s populists would form in parliament given that many of its adherents disagree on core issues.

Nevertheless, a hodgepodge of populist anti-immigrant groups have loosely attached themselves to Salvini, giving the impression that Bannon may be, even if incidentally, getting what he wants.Leading political scientist Ivan Krastev has argued that Bannon’s form of populism is “likely to be the major alternative to liberalism in the coming decades.” And the elections Sunday could be a litmus test of this theory.

Germany’s far-right Alternative For Deutschland (AFD) threw its weight behind the new populist alliance. The Finns Party, a populist conservative party that advocates for Finland to leave Europe’s visa-free Schengen zone and form a visa-free regime with Russia, also joined. Geert Wilders, the controversial leader of the Netherlands’ Party for Freedom, was there too. The Party for Freedom appeared to have lost three of its four seats in parliament and won its lowest percentage of votes in a decade as voters went to the polls in the Netherlands on Thursday. 

But it’s France where the real battle between the populists and pro-Europeans is expected to play out. And that’s exactly where Bannon has set up shop, reportedly spending his days in a luxury hotel in Paris and drawing the ire of the country’s centrist President Emmanuel Macron. Macron has accused Bannon and Russian oligarchs of conspiring to weaken the European Union.

Daniela Ramos Giraldo, a member of the new pan-European Volt Party, says her party wasn’t able to run in France because of a cumbersome rule that requires parties to come up with €800,000 ($894,548) to print their own ballots. Nevertheless, she says that France is a key country for the future of Europe.

“Each country needs to understand that euro-skeptics cannot have a place in Europe,” Giraldo told Newsweek. “But if you have a country like Germany become euro-skeptic, it will have a big impact. We can’t lose France either to euro-skeptics. These two countries are very important.”


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