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The far right could make significant gains in the European Parliament

Photo: Wojtek Radwanski Agence France-Presse A man places his ballot in the ballot box in Warsaw, Poland.

Anne-Laure Mondesert – Agence France-Presse, Augustas Jakimavicius, Hazel Ward – Agence France-Presse, Julia Zappei – Agence France-Presse

Published at 1:05 p.m.

  • Europe

From Vilnius to Lisbon, tens of millions of voters voted Sunday to renew the European Parliament, where the expected rise of the far right could set the political course for the next five years at a crucial moment for the EU.

The vote, intended to elect 720 MEPs, is taking place against a backdrop of concerns linked to the war in Ukraine triggered by Russia and major challenges for Europe, facing to China and the United States.

Citizens of 21 of the 27 EU countries, including Germany, France and Spain, speak out on the last day of an electoral marathon that began Thursday in the Netherlands. In total, more than 360 million people are called to the polls.

The results are expected in the evening. In Austria, the far-right FPÖ party is credited with 27% of the vote, becoming the largest political force in the country, according to exit polls released late this afternoon.

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“The European Union will only succeed if it unites and stays together. I think it’s important to stand on the side of peace and democracy, especially in this world where everyone is trying to isolate themselves from others,” commented Tanja Reith, a 52-year-old German voter.

In Toulouse, in the southwest of France, Martine Dorian, 76, considers it “essential to vote”: “If tomorrow there is no more Europe, there is no more France,” says elle.

Participation on the rise in France

“The challenge is to size”, underlined Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, two days after being attacked in Copenhagen, citing in particular “safety and security with the war in Europe”, “climate change”, “pressure on the borders of 'Europe', and the influence of 'tech giants'.

If polls predict a surge of the far right in a number of countries, the current right/socialist/liberal “grand coalition”, which forges compromises in the European hemicycle, should retain the majority there. But it could see its room for maneuver reduced, forcing it to find additional forces and auguring intense negotiations in the weeks to come.

The Dutch, first to vote on Thursday, confirmed a rise in Geert Wilders' far-right party, even if it should settle for second place behind the social-democrat and environmentalist coalition, according to estimates.

The President of the European Commission, the German Ursula von der Leyen, who is seeking a second five-year term, voted mid-morning in Burgdorf, Lower Saxony, accompanied by her husband.

“I hope that a pro-peace majority will emerge from these elections,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said after voting in Budapest. Always very critical of Brussels, the nationalist leader is also increasing attacks against NATO, accusing it of dragging the Alliance countries into a “global conflagration”.

In countries neighboring Russia at war with Ukraine, security is a major concern. “I would like a strengthening of security […] or even the deployment of a European contingent on our territory,” says Andrzej Zmiejewski, a 51-year-old doctor, after voting in Warsaw.

The mobilization of the electorate is one of the major challenges of the election.

In Spain, participation was down at 2 p.m. (12 p.m. GMT), at 28.01%, up from 34.74% in the last poll in 2019. In France, on the other hand, it was up to 45.26% at 5 p.m. (3 p.m. GMT) from 43.29% in 2019.

In this country where 49 million voters are called to the polls to nominate 81 MEPs, President Emmanuel Macron called for a barrier to the far right, believing that the risk was that Europe would find itself “blocked”.

The latest polls place the National Rally, led by Jordan Bardella, well ahead with more than 30% of the votes, far ahead of Renaissance, the French president's party, then the social democratic left led by Raphaël Glucksmann.

In Germany, the far right gathered behind the AfD, is also in ambush, despite the latest scandals which have splashed his head of list.

If the German conservatives of the CDU-CSU should come well ahead, with 30.5% of the votes, according to a poll, the party of social democratic chancellor Olaf Scholz, the SPD, should experience a bitter failure. The SPD and Greens are battling for second place with the AfD.

“Progress or regression”

In Italy, where voting began on Saturday, the post-fascist Fratelli d'Italia (FDI) party of head of government Giorgia Meloni could send 22 MEPs to the hemicycle, compared to six currently.

Ms. Meloni, who presented herself as head of the list in this election, reaffirmed her desire to “defend the borders against illegal immigration, protect the real economy, fight against unfair competition.”

Spanish Prime Minister, socialist Pedro Sanchez, encouraged voters to go to the polls. “It is the vote that decides whether the future that we are building together for Europe and for Spain is a future of progress or a future of regression,” he said.

The MEPs will have the first task of confirming — or invalidating — the choices of the leaders of the member countries for the presidency of the Commission.

If the 27, who meet at the end of June at a summit in Brussels, opt for a reappointment of Ursula von der Leyen, the vote in Parliament, a priori in mid-July, will be carefully scrutinized. In 2019, when she was appointed to this position to everyone's surprise, Parliament only gave her its confidence by a very narrow majority (nine votes).

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116