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The Latest | Far-right projected to make big gains as voting wraps on last day of EU elections
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The Latest | Far-right projected to make big gains as voting wraps on last day of EU elections

  • PublishedJune 9, 2024



An initial projection provided by the European Union indicates far-right parties have made big gains at the European Parliament, as voting was wrapping up Sunday on the final day of elections for the next five-year term.

In France, President Emanuel Macron announced he was calling early legislative elections after his party suffered a heavy defeat from the far-right National Rally party.

In Germany, support for Olaf Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats sank to a projected 14%, behind the extreme-right Alternative for Germany, which surged into second place.

Millions of Europeans have been casting their ballots this week for a new European Parliament, the legislative branch of the 27-member trade bloc, in one of the world’s biggest democratic elections. Far-right parties were expected to gain more power amid a rise in the cost of living and farmers’ discontent, while the wars in Gaza and Ukraine are also key topics weighing on the minds of voters.

Exit polls results have been trickling in, but official results are not expected before the last polling stations in all 27 EU nations close late Sunday.

Currently:

— France’s Macron calls a snap election after heavy defeat

— Far-right Alternative for Germany make gains; poor showing for Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats

— What’s at stake: AP’s explainer on how it works and the main issues

— Overwhelmed by the elections? A guide to the key races to watch

Here’s the latest:

POLISH PRIME MINISTER TUSK DECLARES VICTORY

WARSAW, Poland — Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has declared victory after an exit poll showed a decisive victory for his centrist pro-EU party.

The exit poll by Ipsos showed over 38% of votes going to his Civic Coalition. According to the poll, the result was a disappointing showing for Law and Justice, the national conservative party that governed Poland from 2015-23. The poll showed it with nearly 34%.

The far-right Confederation party was in third place in the exit poll, winning nearly 12% for a strong showing.

CYPRIOT INFLUENCER WITH NO POLITICAL EXPERIENCE APPEARS SET TO WIN EU PARLIAMENT SEAT

NICOSIA, Cyprus — A popular YouTuber and TikToker whose humorous and occasionally obnoxious posts have earned him tens of thousands of followers has stunned Cyprus’ political world by appearing to wrest one of six seats allotted to the island nation in the European Parliament from traditional political powerhouses.

With more than three quarters of votes counted, unofficial results show Fidias Panayiotou clinching almost 20% of votes, about 2 percentage points behind the communist-rooted AKEL party in second and 4 percentage points behind the center-right Democratic Rally Party.

Although opinion polls have consistently showed Panayiotou garnering high numbers, no one expected him to crush to this degree much of the country’s political establishment solely through his social media fame after a mere two-month campaign in which he essentially offered no political positions.

In his first remarks after polls closed and initial results showed him steadily in third place, Fidias, who goes only by his first name, said a “miracle” had been achieved, conceding that he himself didn’t believe he would pull in such numbers.

“This could be the first time that a completely independent candidate who doesn’t have even an inkling of support from a political party, has managed to get elected, with social media being his only weapon,” Fidias said.

He spoke of the opening of a “new chapter in the book of democracy” where citizens are more empowered and chastised representatives of political parties by suggesting voters have turned their backs on them and their self-serving ways.

Analysts said Fidias drew his votes primarily from the 18-39 age bracket, but managed to get a respectable percentage from older voters.

Fidias shot to fame in a video a few years ago when he managed to get a hug from billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.

FRENCH PRESIDENT MACRON CALLS SNAP LEGISLATIVE ELECTION AFTER DEFEAT IN EU VOTE

PARIS – French President Emanuel Macron says he is dissolving the National Assembly and calling a snap legislative election after his party suffered a heavy defeat in elections for the European Parliament.

In an address to the nation from the Elysee presidential palace, Macron said: “I’ve decided to give you back the choice of our parliamentary future through the vote. I am therefore dissolving the National Assembly.” The vote will take place in two rounds on June 30 and July 7, he said.

The move comes as first projected results from France on Sunday put the far-right National Rally party well ahead in the European Union’s parliamentary election, defeating Macron’s pro-European centrists, according to French opinion poll institutes.

FIRST PROJECTION BY EU SUGGEST FAR-RIGHT PARTIES MADE BIG GAINS

BRUSSELS — Far-right parties have made big gains at the European Parliament as the Greens took a major hit at Sunday’s European elections, according to a first projection provided by the European Union.

The estimates aggregated by the EU parliament are based on exit polls or other survey data, along with projections that may include some partial election returns.

The two mainstream and pro-European groups, the conservatives and the socialists, lost a few seats but remained the dominant forces. The Greens were expected to lose about 20 seats.

FIRST PROJECTED RESULTS FROM FRANCE PUT FAR-RIGHT NATIONAL RALLY PARTY WELL AHEAD IN EU ELECTION

PARIS, France — The first projected results from France are putting the far-right National Rally party well ahead in EU elections, according to French opinion poll institutes.

Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration, nationalist party is estimated to get around 31-32% of the vote, more than twice the score of President Emmanuel Macron’s pro-European centrist party that is projected to reach around 15%.

France is electing 81 members of the European Parliament.

CROATIA EXIT POLLS PROJECT GOVERNING CONSERVATIVES TO WIN THE MOST VOTES

ZAGREB, Croatia — Exit polls in Croatia project the ruling conservatives to win the most votes in the EU election, followed by the main center-left opposition party. A newcomer far-right party also won a seat for the first time.

The Croatian Democratic Union of Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic won 33.7% of the vote, or six seats, while the Social Democratic Party won 27.8%, or four seats, according to the exit poll conducted by the Ipsos polling agency and broadcast by the state HRT television.

The report said that far-right Homeland Movement won 8.6%, or one seat. The party is part of the coalition government in Croatia after emerging as kingmaker at a recent parliamentary election. The Liberal We Can group won 5.4%, which is also one seat.

LOW TURNOUT IN GREECE, WHERE NONE OF 3 MAIN PARTIES SEEMS TO HAVE REACHED THEIR GOALS

ATHENS, Greece — In Greece, none of the big three parties has reached their stated goals in Sunday’s election for the European Parliament, but all may find a silver lining in them.

With more than 40% of the vote counted, turnout is 39%, nearly 20 percentage points below that of the last European election, in May 2019.

The ruling center-right New Democracy had hoped to match its 2019 result of 33%. So far, it is polling at 27.6%, still far ahead of main opposition SYRIZA with nearly 15% and the socialist PASOK at just over 13%.

SYRIZA leader Stefanos Kasselakis had hoped for at least 20% of vote share or, at least, to match the 17.8% obtained by the party in last year’s second national election. PASOK had hoped to overtake SYRIZA for second place, as opinion polls seemed to show last year. But if results hold, its margin with SYRIZA will be less than shown in recent opinion surveys.

Far-right parties increased their share of the vote, even as one of them, the Spartans, was barred from contesting the election. Greek Solution is so far getting nearly 10% of the vote, the ultra-religious Niki at just over 4% and Voice of Reason at 3%.

EXIT POLLS INDICATE PARTY OF BULGARIA’S EX-PRIME MINISTER IS THE LIKELY WINNER

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Exit polls in Bulgaria indicate the GERB center-right party of three-time Prime Minister Boyko Borissov is the likely winner of the country’s parliamentary vote as well as the election for European Parliament.

The exit poll conducted by Gallup International showed the GERB party with 26%, apparently edging out the reformist coalition between the We Continue the Change party and the right-wing Democratic Bulgaria by a margin of over 10 percentage points in both votes. Borissov held the premiership three times between 2009 and 2021.

Projections show a record-low voter turnout. Initial results are expected on Monday, but it could take days before the final official results are announced.

If final results confirm indications from the exit poll, Borissov will be handed a mandate to form his fourth cabinet, though he could face an uphill task in finding allies to form a governing coalition in a fragmented parliament.

The ultra-nationalist Vazrazhdane party, a strong opposition to any actions against Putin’s Russia, is seen as widening its parliamentary presence at home to 15% and for the first time is also expected to send at least three representatives to the European Parliament.

MAINSTREAM, PRO-EU PARTIES EXPECTED TO HOLD MAJORITY DESPITE GAINS BY FAR RIGHT

BRUSSELS — First national estimates from five European Union countries provided by the European Parliament suggest mainstream and pro-European parties should retain their majority in next legislature despite gains by the far-right.

The estimates aggregated by the EU parliament were based on exit polls or other survey data. They came from Austria, Cyprus, Germany, Greece and the Netherlands.

The Socialists, Liberals, Greens and Conservatives put on a strong showing even though they are expected to lose seats to far-right parties like those led by Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen in France.

VON DER LEYEN CONGRATULATES HER GERMAN PARTY AFTER EXIT POLLS SHOWS IT DID WELL

BRUSSELS — European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen has congratulated her German party, the Christian Democratic Union, on its result in the election after exit polls showed that it was the biggest vote-getter.

“You know that we in Europe still have to wait several hours, but what you have already set as a trend is all the better – strongest force, stable, in difficult times and by a distance,” she told supporters by video link from Brussels.

“Now we have to replicate this in Europe, but I am confident that we will succeed this evening,” she said.

EXIT POLLS POINT TO GAINS FOR GERMANY’S FAR RIGHT

Exit polls pointed to very weak results for Germany’s governing parties and gains for the far-right Alternative for Germany in Sunday’s vote for the European Parliament, while the mainstream conservative opposition was set to remain the country’s strongest political force in the legislature.

The polls for ARD and ZDF public television showed support for Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats at 14%, below the 15.8% they managed in 2019 and far below their showing in Germany’s last national election in 2021.

The environmentalist Greens, the second-biggest party in Scholz’s coalition, fell from a successful 20.5% five years ago to around 12%, according to the exit polls. Support for the pro-business Free Democrats, the third party in the quarrelsome and unpopular government, was seen at 5%.

The exit polls gave a clear lead to the center-right Union bloc, now the main opposition force, putting its support at around 30%. That’s in line with its 2019 result and better than its showing in the last national election.

Alternative for Germany, or AfD, was seen winning up to 16.5% of the vote. That’s better than 11% in 2019 but still some way short of its poll ratings several months ago. The party has seen a string of setbacks this year, including scandals surrounding its two lead candidates for the European Parliament.

BELGIUM LOOKING INTO REPORTS OF IRREGULARITIES BY TEEN VOTERS

BRUSSELS — Some underage voters in Belgium who were only allowed to cast their ballot in the European elections might have also voted in regional and federal elections they were not entitled to take part in, according to the country’s interior minister.

Belgian voters were electing a new federal parliament but also regional parliaments and members of the European Parliament. Teenagers aged 16 and 17 were allowed to vote in the European elections, but Belgian citizens must be at least 18 to vote in the other elections.

Following reports in local media Sunday that people under 18 voted in all three elections, Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden told regional broadcaster VRT that “the errors appeared to have been limited” and that any complaints will be investigated.

“For the time being I presume that the impact has been limited. We will continue with these elections,” she said.

A ‘WIDESPREAD YAWN’ IN SPAIN, WHERE TURNOUT APPEARS LOW

MADRID — María Del Mar Mira, a civil servant and historian in the central Letras neighborhood of Madrid, expressed disappointment at not seeing the queues that normally form for national elections at her polling station in central Madrid. She believes voters don’t understand the importance of decisions taken in the European Parliament.

“We should take this more seriously, because there are a lot of important things coming from there and the truth is it that we are taking a direction that reminds me of past and undesirable times,” Mira said.

Some 38 million Spaniards are eligible to vote Sunday to elect 61 members of the 720-seat European Parliament, with the conservative opposition and the ruling Socialists expected to get the most seats.

Antonio García Escolar, a producer and screenwriter from Madrid, also remarked on low interest in the vote, something he blamed on misinformation. “We have fallen into a widespread yawn,” he said. “We are asleep, because we prefer reading a headline or what a YouTuber tells us and we don’t seek truthful information.”

García Escolar did not disclose who he voted for but said his vote was “against fascism.”

“Fascism is not something that one learns in school, it is something that is dormant and that is inside all of us, that only awakens when fear is stirred,” he said.

Ana Cabanas, a lawyer from Madrid, said the economy and the agricultural policies that are decided in Brussels were some of the main topics that drove her to vote.

“I still believe in Europe and I want to have a say in matters that affect Spanish legislation and that are decided in Europe,” Cabanas said.

FRENCH VOTERS ARE CONCERNED ABOUT MIGRATION AND WARS IN UKRAINE AND THE MIDDLE EAST

PARIS — Migration has been one of the most important issues to French voters, and the party of far-right leader Marine Le Pen is hoping for a strong showing against the centrist party of President Emmanuel Macron.

Jordan Bardella, Le Pen’s 28-year-old protege and the current president of the far-right National Rally, gave strong performances in debates ahead of this weekend’s election, something that could help Le Pen as she is expected to run for the French presidency in 2027.

Bardella has fiercely opposed the EU Asylum and Migration Pact, a plan backed by Macron that seeks to harmonize the management of irregular migrant arrivals among EU nations.

French voters are also focused on the war in Ukraine and Gaza.

“Today, in the context of a war in Ukraine and the Middle East, there’s a different dimension than the national one,” said Francois Tivolle, who cast his ballot in Paris’ 11th district.

GERMANY’S UNPOPULAR COALITION FACES ITS FIRST NATIONWIDE TEST SINCE TAKING OFFICE IN 2021

BERLIN — The European Parliament election gives political parties in Germany their first nationwide test since center-left Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government took office at the end of 2021.

Pre-election surveys suggested that the mainstream conservative opposition, the Union bloc, can expect to remain Germany’s strongest force in the EU legislature. They predict weak results for the three parties in Scholz’s quarrelsome governing coalition, which has become very unpopular.

The far-right Alternative for Germany can expect gains compared with the 11% of the vote it won in 2019, but its performance may be hampered by a string of setbacks in recent months, including scandals surrounding its two lead candidates for the European Parliament.

Germany elects 96 of the 720 lawmakers who will make up Europe’s new Parliament, the biggest single share.

Voter Laura Simon said in Berlin: “I do hope that we will manage to avoid a shift to the right and that Europe will somehow remain united.”

HUNGARY’S PRIME MINISTER FACES FIRST ELECTORAL TEST SINCE NEW RIVAL APPEARS

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Many Hungarian view the election as a referendum on the popularity of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, whose illiberal policies and his support for Russia have pushed him to the margins of the European Union.

While Fidesz has dominated Hungarian politics since 2010, many Hungarians are deeply dissatisfied with the direction the country is going, and hope to deal a blow to Orbán by supporting one of the most formidable challengers he’s ever faced.

Péter Magyar, a 43-year-old lawyer and former insider within Orbán’s party, has built up Hungary’s strongest opposition party in a matter of months and hopes to use a good showing in Sunday’s elections to propel himself and his movement toward defeating the prime minister in the next national ballot scheduled for 2026.

Orbán’s governing Fidesz party is expected to win the largest share of the vote after campaigning heavily on fears that the war in neighboring Ukraine could escalate to involve Hungary directly.

Hungary is set to take over the EU’s rotating six-month presidency next month.

POLAND VOTES WITH WAR IN UKRAINE AND MIGRATION ISSUES IN FOCUS

WARSAW, Poland — Poles are voting at a time of great insecurity for the nation, which is located along the eastern flank of both the European Union and NATO.

The war just across the border in Ukraine has created fears that if Russia were to prevail, Poland and neighboring nations that were once under Moscow’s control could be targeted next.

A migration crisis is also playing out along another stretch of the eastern border with Belarus. Poland accuses Belarus and Russia of luring large numbers of migrants to the border to create instability. The crisis has been deadly, with a migrant recently stabbing to death a Polish soldier. Dozens of migrants, if not more, have also died in the swampy forest area since 2021.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk has stressed national security, promising to strengthen border controls as he seeks a good showing for his centrist, pro-EU party.

On the minds of some Poles is the nature of the EU itself. In a nation under foreign rule for long spans in the past, some Poles fear that the 27-member bloc is taking away too much power from individual nations.

“We know that the European Union is in crisis, so maybe our elections will change something in the decision-making and efficiency of this body,” said Anna Grzegorczyk-Łuczak, a 60-year-old architect who voted early in Warsaw.

BULGARIANS CAST BALLOTS FOR NEW PARLIAMENT AND IN EU ELECTIONS

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgarians are choosing a new parliament Sunday while also participating in European Union elections that have been overshadowed by domestic political instability and economic inequality as well as growing concern over the war in nearby Ukraine.

It was Bulgaria’s sixth parliamentary election in three years. There were worries that voter fatigue and wide disillusionment with politicians who do not fulfill promises to fight corruption and introduce reforms could result in a low turnout and another fragmented parliament.

Preliminary results are expected Monday in the voting for the 240 seats in the National Assembly and for 17 members in the European Parliament.

The front-runners in the National Assembly elections were seen as the GERB center-right party led by three-time Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and the reformist coalition We Continue the Change–Democratic Bulgaria.

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See AP’s coverage of global elections in 2024 here.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.



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