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European Parliament vote: Extreme right poised to gain ground

Britain's Gordon Brown could fall, while Dutch populist Geert Wilders's anti-Islam stand finds new appeal.

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Europe is bracing for a lurch toward populist, anti-European parties of the right this weekend as the world's biggest transnational elections unfold across 27 countries.

Fringe parties hostile to immigration, foreigners, and the European Union (EU) in general were poised to score well in the first two countries to vote in European parliamentary elections, Britain and Holland, according to exit polls and expert projections.

Geert Wilders, a populist who despises Islam, opposes immigration, and wants the European Parliament abolished, was given more than 15 percent of the vote in the Netherlands and just one seat less than the ruling Christian Democrats, according to an exit poll.

In Britain, two right-wing parties opposed to the EU – the UK Independence Party and the British National Party – were predicted to get one-fifth of all votes, according to the predict09.eu website compiled by leading political scientists.

"It's clear from the Netherlands that the populist right is going to do well," says Wyn Grant, a politics professor at Warwick University in Central England. "It's a trend across Europe, and it's not surprising in a recession," he adds.

Most EU countries are deep in recession and this week unemployment figured showed almost one in 10 Europeans were jobless.

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