Key countries to watch after high-stakes Europe-wide vote
BRUSSELS (AP) — After voters in all 28 European Union countries elected a new shared parliament , here are results in some key countries that will help determine Europe’s direction:
Italy’s anti-migrant, anti-Islam interior minister, Matteo Salvini, boosted his right-wing League party to become the No. 1 party in Italy, with more than 30 percent of the vote, according to early projections.
Salvini has been using his hard-line credentials to expand a parliamentary group of European populists that already includes far-right politicians in France, Germany and Austria. Salvini is promising to restore sovereignty over key issues like immigration to national capitals, thwarting the EU’s drive toward closer integration of its members.
In Europe, the populists will find it difficult to deliver on their transformation promises . But Salvini also is looking to capitalize on the outcome of the European elections to boost his power at home in the League’s uneasy populist ruling coalition with the left-wing 5-Star Movement.
Salvini could use European electoral gains to leverage his position in the government and pass policies important to his base of northern Italian entrepreneurs, like a flat tax or the high-speed train connecting Lyon, France, with Turin.
Most analysts believe that Salvini is unlikely to seek an early election in Italy even with a big victory on the European stage.
But the government’s future seems to be at play, with the surprise results of the Democratic Party, which was in second place in the voting ahead of the League’s government coalition partner, the 5-Star Movement.
Anti-immigration, far-right flagbearer Marine Le Pen looks set for victory over pro-EU centrist President Emmanuel Macron in their epic battle over Europe’s direction.
That’s bad news not just for Macron — but also for the French leader’s grand ambitions for a more united Europe.
It’s sweet revenge for Le Pen, runner-up to Macron in France’s 2017 presidential race. And it’s a boost for her efforts to spread her anti-EU message beyond France’s borders. For Le Pen, the race was a battle to preserve European civilization from the threat of “massive immigration” and uncontrolled globalization.
Macron wants EU countries to share budgets and soldiers and work even more closely together to keep Europe globally relevant and prevent conflict.
Official results Sunday night showed Le Pen’s National Rally party in the lead in France’s voting, with Macron’s governing Republic on the Move party in second place.
France’s Greens party was projected to come in a surprisingly strong third place — easily beating the traditional conservative party the Republicans, far-left Defiant France and once-dominant Socialist Party.
Le Pen’s party, then called the National Front, already won France’s European parliamentary elections in 2014.
Germany’s governing parties are headed for their worst post-World War II results in a nationwide election, with the environmentalist Greens emerging as the big winner.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Union bloc was easily the biggest party, exit polls indicated, but with support of less than 30%. The picture looks disastrous for their center-left partners in an often-fractious “grand coalition,” the Social Democrats, who are set to score well under 20%.
It remains to be seen what effect those results will have on the governing coalition, which took office in March last year after months of wrangling and has since been marred by infighting; and on the future of their leaders.
The Greens appeared set to confirm a surge in support in recent polls amid concern over climate change, finishing second. The far-right Alternative for Germany, though, was set for an indifferent performance. It was seen scoring a bit over 10%. That allows it to increase its presence in the European Parliament, but it’s a weaker performance than in Germany’s 2017 national election.
The party of Hungary’s anti-migrant firebrand Prime Minister Viktor Orban won 13 of the country’s 21 seats in the European Parliament, according to official results.
Orban told supporters Sunday night that the outcome showed that “people in Hungary believe change is needed in Brussels.”
Orban, who has made anti-immigration policies the main focus of his government since early 2015 even though hardly any migrants pass through Hungary anymore, said that his Fidesz party “will cooperate with everyone who wants to stop immigration.”
He did not however directly address the possibility of joining up in the EU parliament with like-minded leaders such as Italy’s Salvini.
Fidesz’s membership in the center-right European People’s Party, which should remain the largest group in the European Parliament, has been suspended because of concerns about democracy in Hungary.
Andras Biro-Nagy, director of the Policy Solutions research institute, said that since euroskeptic parties failed to achieve the big breakthrough across the continent Orban dreamed of, joining them would “totally marginalize” the Hungarian leader at the EU level.
“It would be in Orban’s interest to try to somehow beg himself back into the People’s Party,” Biro-Nagy said. “But I believe he may have gone far beyond the point where Fidesz’s fate can be changed.”
Still, the continued fragmentation of Hungary’s opposition will ensure Fidesz’s domination on the domestic level.
Municipal elections will be held in October, but at the national level Orban is just a year into his third consecutive, four-year term.
Britain wasn’t supposed to take part in the European Parliament elections at all, but had to organize a last-minute campaign when its planned March exit from the EU was postponed.
And the winner appeared to be the Brexit Party led by anti-EU figurehead Nigel Farage, according to early projections. They also showed a big surge for the strongly pro-European Liberal Democrats.
Both the governing Conservatives and main opposition Labour Party are braced for a drubbing as U.K. voters use the election to protest at Britain’s Brexit deadlock.
The results reflect an electorate deeply divided over Britain’s delayed departure from the European Union, but united in anger at the two long-dominant parties, Conservatives and Labour.
The Conservatives look likely to be punished for failing to take the country out of the EU as promised, a failure that led May to announce Friday that she is stepping down.
Farage’s Brexit Party has only one policy: for Britain to leave the EU as soon as possible, even without a divorce agreement in place.
In the last EU election in 2014, Farage’s former UKIP party won 27% of the vote, helping build momentum in the push to get Britain out of the EU.
The U.K. has 73 seats at the European Parliament, and its lawmakers would lose their jobs when their country leaves the EU.
Provisional results point to a big win for Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s center-right party in the European Parliament election, days after a scandal involving the far-right Freedom Party brought down his governing coalition.
That is a big boost for Kurz before a national election expected in September. The early results show the Freedom Party finishing far behind in third place.
Heinz-Christian Strache quit last weekend as vice chancellor and Freedom Party leader after a leaked video showed him appearing to offer favors to a purported Russian investor during a boozy meeting on the Spanish island of Ibiza two years ago. Kurz then called for a new election and is now running an interim government with experts replacing the Freedom Party’s ministers.
Kurz is expected to face a small opposition party’s no-confidence motion in parliament on Monday, and it’s unclear whether he will keep his job. But a big win would make his People’s Party firm favorite to retain power in September.
The projection also points to a comeback for the Greens, who lost their seats in Germany’s national parliament in 2017.
Colleen Barry in Milan, Italy; Geir Moulson in Berlin; Pablo Gorondi in Budapest, Hungary; and Elaine Ganley and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.