Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was facing a groundswell of revolt Friday from allied center-right parties that want to kick him out of their European Parliament group less than three months ahead of the May elections.
Several Christian Democrat parties already have voiced their opposition to the continued membership of the EPP umbrella group of Orban's Fidesz party. In recent years, Orban has been strongly identified with anti-migrant rhetoric.
Luxembourg Christian Democrat leader Frank Engel said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press he wants the EPP to take a decision ahead of the March 21-22 European Union summit in Brussels "because I have no intention of engaging in an election campaign with Fidesz still on board."
Engel joined two Belgian parties in writing in a letter to the grouping's presidency asking for Fidesz to be excluded because the Hungarian leader "has been acting in striking contradiction" with the EPP's Christian Democrat values.
The EPP, they said, was too important "to be undermined within our own ranks by what we are so determined to fight: nationalism-based populism and open hostility against European integration."
Dutch and Portuguese parties have echoed that complaint, which has swelled over recent months — that Orban is too far to the political right of traditional Christian Democrat values.
Orban's stance on migrants from conflict zones has alarmed many within the group. He has accused European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who is part of the EPP, of being too lax on immigration. Orban has plastered Budapest with posters showing Juncker as a gloating force of evil.
Juncker's Commission issued a rebuttal on Thursday against Orban's allegations — hardly the unity the grouping wants to display three months ahead of elections.
Dutch Christian Democrat leader Rutger Ploum said "recent events have shown that informal talks with Fidesz no longer have the desired effect."
And Portugal's CDS/PP party said in a letter to the EPP presidency that the differences with Fidesz "are too substantial" for Orban's party to remain inside the group.
Orban hopes anti-migration forces will become a majority in all EU institutions, including the European Parliament and EU Commission, the bloc's executive body.
Lajos Kosa, a Fidesz founder and an Orban government commissioner, was confident the party would not be expelled from the EPP for what he called "clarifying the truth."
Expulsion "was also raised earlier by pro-immigration EPP politicians, but it has not happened so far and we don't expect it now, either," Kosa told broadcaster ATV. "The debate and clarification of facts ahead of the EU election is in the public interest."
Engel said he was sure more Christian Democrat parties would join his call by early next week, enough to reach a threshold that the EPP group would have to discuss the issue, likely on March 20.
"There are certainly more to come," he said.