News World Europeans vote for change amid rising nationalism

Europeans vote for change amid rising nationalism

Counting of votes for the European election gets under way at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. Photo: Getty
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France’s far-right is expected to beat the President Macron-led centrist party as Europe voted for change in landmark EU elections.

Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party beat the incumbent La République En Marche List, according to early projections of the French vote in what was a major victory for Eurosceptic forces.

Ms Le Pen has already delivered her victory speech, calling for Mr Macron to dissolve French Parliament.

Marine Le Pen makes a statement after the projections for the results of the European Parliament election. Photo: Getty

Elsewhere, Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called snap national elections after suffering a heavy defeat from opposition conservatives.

With an unexpectedly severe pounding at the ballot box for leftist Syriza, Mr Tsipras decided not to continue to a full term, which expires in October.

“I will request immediate declaration of national elections from the President of the Republic,” Mr Tsipras said. A party source said the earliest a vote could take place would be June 30, to allow for preparations.

Results for the European Parliament vote showed Syriza trailing the opposition New Democracy party by about nine points.

Syriza stormed the Greek political scene on an anti-austerity platform six years ago, then suffered a backlash after a third bailout in 2015.

More damagingly, there was a deeply unpopular agreement that resolved a long-running name dispute with North Macedonia.

In Hungary, the eurosceptic party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has led battles against Brussels over immigration and attempts to limit media and judicial freedoms, was on track to beat pre-vote poll expectations, a survey found.

The anti-immigration League of Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini could find itself the biggest single party in the EU legislature if it can top the 28 seats that polls indicate have been won by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and its allies.

The German exit poll has projected strong gains for the Greens in Germany, delivering a major blow to Ms Merkel’s fragile coalition.  

The Greens more than doubled its share of the vote in that European Union nation, leaping into second place behind Ms Merkel’s conservative party and above the centre-left Social Democrats.

The far-right Alternative for Germany showed gains to 10.5 per cent as Ms Merkel’s party shed 9 percentage points from five years ago.

The Greens is also gaining strength in Ireland, with EU estimates putting it in line to take the first seats it’s held in the European Parliament in 20 years.

The party is set to win up to three of Ireland’s 11 seats in parliament. Ireland will be allocated 13 seats once the UK leaves the EU.

Britain, which voted on Thursday but will publish results only after the Italians draw four days of elections across the 28-nation bloc to a close, is also expected to return a large number of anti-EU MEPs.

These, however, may not hold their seats for long as the British negotiate to leave the Union.

Such indications so far tend to bolster hopes among Brussels officials that hostile-to-Europe, populist parties may fall short of their greatest ambition to form a solid bloc of 20 per cent of the 751-seat chamber.

That figure could, combined with milder eurosceptics, see 30 per cent of seats held by lawmakers bent on thwarting mainstream leaders’ plans for closer EU integration.

In the Netherlands, which also voted on Thursday, an upstart anti-immigration party came only fourth with 11 per cent, according to an exit poll, having been seen as a potential winner.

The centre-left staged an unexpected comeback, helped by former Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans leading its EU-wide campaign.

In reverse of the trend, the Austrian party that took a lead in the renaissance of the far-right across the continent took a hammering, a projection showed.

The far-right Freedom Party crashed out of government last week when a video emerged of its leader seeking favour from a supposed Russian oligarch in return for potential public contracts.

The party scored 17.5 per cent, some six points below where it was polling before the scandal broke.

The ruling centre-right of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz scored better by a similar margin.

Initial indications showed turnout was up in most countries, giving hope to EU officials who see an end to a 40-year run of declining participation as a mark of Europeans waking up to the importance of the EU legislature.

However, it could also reflect an increasingly angry debate in many European countries.

-with AAP

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