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Far-right parties seen nearly doubling seats in EU vote: Bild

BERLIN (Reuters) - Far-right parties are poised to double their seats in the European Parliament election in May, while mainstream conservative and Social Democratic groups face big losses, a new poll released by Germany’s Bild newspaper showed.

The loss of support for mainstream parties meant they would not be able to form a “grand coalition” in the parliament such as the one ruling Germany, the poll of more than 9,500 people carried out in six countries in late February and early March showed.

The poll published on Saturday showed the far-right Europe of Nations and Freedom Group, which includes Austria’s FPO party and Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party in France, were likely to win 67 seats, up from 37 now.

Far-right parties came out top in three of the six countries surveyed - France, Italy and Poland, Bild reported.

Conservative and left-leaning political leaders have been bracing for strong gains by far-right parties in the May elections. They have also expressed concern about a pledge by U.S. President Donald Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon to help unite Europe’s far right ahead of the election.

The poll confirmed deep skepticism about established mainstream parties, and indicated that the rightward shift that has swept Europe in recent years was slated to continue on the European level.

The conservative European People’s Party (EPP), which includes Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, was expected to lose 43 seats, dropping to 174, while the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats (S&P) was seen shedding 45 seats to 141.

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) would add 33 seats to reach 101, while the European Greens (EFA) would lose 8 seats to reach 44, according to the poll results.

In Germany, Merkel’s conservatives were favored by 29 percent of those surveyed, followed by the Social Democrats with 16 percent and the Greens with 15 percent.

The polls were carried out in Germany, Austria, Italy, Poland, Spain and France in late February and early March.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Hugh Lawson