European elections 2019: What we know so far

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The major centre-right and centre-left groupings were always going to have a tough election, the question was – on what scale?

When the results came, it was clear they had lost their combined majority in the European Parliament as voters shied away from the mainstream. But they still held more than 43% of the vote.

The mainstream blocs lost votes to the Liberals, Greens and nationalists, creating a new, fragmented reality for the European Parliament.

Turnout was at its highest since 1994, with some observers suggesting this was due to more young people voting.

  • A really simple guide to the European elections

1. End of two-party rule

The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) have long held more than half the seats in Parliament between them. That is set to change.

The sense of an end of an era was symbolised in Germany, where the centre-right Christian Democrats of Chancellor Angela Merkel polled just 28% of the vote – their worst-ever performance in European elections. The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) came a poor third with 16%.

Official projections based on exit polls now suggest the EPP and S&D will lose 83 seats, bringing their share down to around 42%, from a comfortable control of more than half the previous parliament.

The centrist Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), is heading for big gains, with its share rising from 67 seats to 102. That is largely because the newcomer-party of French President Emmanuel Macron has decided to join up and could play a kingmaker role.

Outgoing ALDE group leader Guy Verhofstadt hailed a “historical moment” and a “new balance of power”.

2. A Green wave

Many member states, from the Nordic countries to Portugal, saw a rise in the Green vote.

And while they may have come second in Germany, the Green party is being hailed as the big winner there, doubling its vote share to 20.5%, incomplete results showed.

The Greens captured the zeitgeist while the other parties struggled to put together a coherent environmental policy, said BBC Berlin correspondent Jenny Hill.

Around one in three people under the age of 30 voted Green. In the run-up to the vote, 90 influential YouTubers urged followers to vote for parties that took climate issues seriously. They told voters to avoid the far-right AfD, which they said denied climate change was even happening.

In France, green group Europe Écologie Les Verts (EELV) is on course to come third with 13.2%. Both Mrs Le Pen and Mr Macron have emphasised their green credentials. Mr Macron wants to shift to green technology and energy while Mrs Le Pen said her brand of localism was good for the environment.

In Portugal, the green PAN party (People-Animals-Nature) is on course to win its first ever seat in the European Parliament, possibly even two.

The Greens have won a historic second place in Finland but in Sweden, home to climate activist Greta Thunberg, they have gone into reverse. They are projected to poll 9.5%, down almost 6%.

In Ireland, early exit polls give the Green party 15%.

3. Mixed picture for nationalist right

This was to be the election that sparked a right-wing force to seize the agenda in Europe. It has not quite happened.

The two dominant nationalist figures in France and Italy won the national vote.

Matteo Salvini, whose right-wing nationalist League party is predicted to win over 30% of the Italian vote, is hoping to found a new grouping, the European Alliance for People and Nations, with the support of a dozen other parties.

In France Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party – formerly the National Front – is heading for first place with 23.4% of the vote, narrowly ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist grouping, which got 22.4%.

Turnout was reportedly high in areas where her party has previously done well and also in areas where support for the anti-government “gilets jaunes” (yellow-vest) movement is strong. Mrs Le Pen has changed her position on EU membership, saying she now wants to stay in the bloc.

But after that the nationalist surge appears to fall away.

In Germany the far-right AfD is predicted to get under 11%, up from 7.1% five years ago, but down on its general election showing in 2017.

In the Netherlands the Freedom Party of Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders has lost all its seats in parliament. Much of his vote appears to have been taken over by another populist party, Forum for Democracy.

Results in Spain give new far-right Vox party getting only 6.2% of the vote, down from the 10.3% it achieved in Spain’s national election only a month ago.

Far-right and Eurosceptic parties are currently split between three groupings in the European Parliament – the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and the two far-right groupings Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) and Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF).

In the UK a new anti-EU party, the Brexit Party is heading for victory at the expense of the Conservative Party, while pro-EU Liberal Democrats are taking votes from the traditionally centre-left Labour party.

What happened where?

Austria

The ruling People’s Party (ÖVP) has won with a record 34.9%, despite a scandal that has led to the collapse of its coalition government with the far right. ÖVP leader Sebastian Kurz is facing a no-confidence vote on Monday which could put him out of a job.

The far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) – which quit the government after its leader Heinz-Christian Strache was exposed in a video sting – does not appear to have been that badly affected by the scandal. It came in third place with 17.5% of the vote, down only slightly from 2014.

Belgium

In Belgium’s big night of European, federal and regional elections it was far-right Flemish party Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) that made all the headlines.

It made little progress in the European poll but came second with 14% of the vote in the national vote. Vlaams Belang wants the northern Flanders region to split from the rest of Belgium.

Croatia

Initial results give the governing HDZ four of the 12 available seats. The centre-left SDP party gets 18.5%, seen as a disappointing result.

Finland

The Finnish Green party (VIHR) won a record 16% of the vote, coming second behind the centre-right National Coalition Party.

Greece

It’s been a bad night for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s left-wing Syriza party which has been well beaten by opposition conservative New Democracy party. New Democracy polled over 33%, over nine points ahead of its rival.

Mr Tsipras has said he will call snap elections, which may take place at the end of June.

New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called on Mr Tsipras to resign.

Hungary

It was another night of election success for Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose Fidesz party is for the moment a suspended member of the centre-right EPP group. Winning 52% of the vote, he declared his anti-immigration platform a success.

“Hungarians gave us three tasks. Foremost, stopping immigration all across Europe. They gave us the task to defend the Europe of nations and to protect Christian culture in Europe,” he told supporters.

If he pulls out of the EPP and embraces the embryonic nationalist alliance, the current arithmetic in the Parliament will change.

Ireland

The centre-right Fine Gael party of Prime Minister Leo Varadkar is heading for a big victory, exit polls suggest. But Ireland’s electoral system means the results will take some time to come through.

Netherlands

The Dutch Labour party has won, as expected, with 18% of the vote. It’s a dramatic victory for Labour, who have been celebrating “an unexpected comeback”.

Poland

The ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party topped exit polls with 43% of the vote, ahead of the pro-European Coalition.

Portugal

Green party PAN is set to enter the European Parliament. No pollster or projection had predicted this.

Romania

The ruling Social Democrats (PSD) were facing a big defeat at the hands of a pro-European alliance. Exit polls put the PSD on 25.8% of the vote.

The vote was accompanied by a referendum on the government’s judicial reforms. The president had brought about the referendum, much to the government’s annoyance, and there were scenes across Europe of Romanians queuing to vote.



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