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The arch-Europhile launched a stunning attack on the record of Mr Johnson and US President Donald Trump over their handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The veteran Belgian MEP claimed the two world leaders were the “last people” you would want in charge of a pandemic.
Mr Verhostadt, 67, also appeared to brand Mr Johnson and Mr Trump as populist leaders – and vowed to tackle the movement in order to strengthen the European Union.
Populism is seen by many as an anti-establishment movement, who appeal to ‘ordinary’ people in order to disrupt the ‘established elite’.
In a post on his personal Twitter account, Mr Verhofstadt wrote: “Trump, Johnson, have shown they are the last people you want at the wheel in a pandemic, but there is no room for complacency.
“Tackling nationalist populism means showing the strength of EU unity, but also being honest about the need for real reform.”
Mr Verhofstadt’s post on social media prompted a furious response from a number of users, with one insisting he had gone too far and another pointing to the coronavirus pandemic in his own backyard and across Europe.
One user said: “Think you have reached a new low when using people’s death as something to celebrate.”
A second user wrote: “Have you seen what’s happening in Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Spain and Italy?”
A third commented: “Guy… your comments are as vacuous today as they were in years past. This virus is extremely virulent. It knows no borders.
“Belgium has been hit as bad as any country. Don’t use it to try and cover up your own ineptitude that has no bounds.”
Meanwhile, a fourth added: “Anything for political point scoring Verhofstadt.”
The initial post by Mr Verfofstadt was reacting to a new poll which suggested the populist movement across Europe has lost support.
Europe has most recently been at the epicentre of a new wave of politics, with figures showing the support for populist parties has increased from seven percent to 25 percent in the past two decades.
Most notable far-right leaders who have enjoyed electoral success, include Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Matteo Salvini in Italy, as well as Marine Le Pen in France.
However, a YouGov poll of around 26,000 people in 25 countries, suggested support had fallen for the populist movement – including in eight European nations.
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The YouGov-Cambridge Globalism project carried out in July-August, found across countries including the UK, France, Germany Italy and the US, fewer people now agreed with the populist statement “the power of a few special interests prevents our country from making progress”.
Matthijs Rooduijn, a political sociologist at the University of Amsterdam and expert on populism, said: “You could think of the virus like a volcano.
“It has hit populism hard, but it will leave behind fertile ground for the future.”
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