European elections: Millions vote to elect new parliament

BRUSSELS (AP) — Tens of thousands of people across the European Union voted Sunday in European Union parliamentary elections, a massive exercise of democracy expected to swing the bloc to the right and turn its future around.

The war in Ukraine, migration and the impact of climate policy on farmers are some of the issues on voters’ minds. Ballot papers 720 members to be elected European Parliament.

More than 50 countries will go to the polls in 2024

Mainstream and pro-European parties will retain a majority in parliament, but will lose seats to hard-right parties such as Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Hungarian President Viktor Orbán, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen in France, according to polls. .

This makes it difficult for Europe to pass legislation and can sometimes paralyze decision-making at the world’s largest trade bloc. “Let’s avoid a shift to the right and I hope that Europe will somehow be united,” said Laura Simon, a voter in Berlin.

EU lawmakers have a say on issues ranging from financial rules to climate and agricultural policy. They approve the EU budget, which includes infrastructure projects, farm subsidies and Aid was given to Ukraine. They have a veto on the appointment of the powerful EU Commission.

The elections come at a time when voter confidence will be tested in the constituency of about 450 million people. In the last five years, the European Union Shaken by the corona virus infectionA Economic collapse And a Energy crisis It was fueled by the largest land conflict in Europe since World War II. But political campaigning often focuses on issues of concern in individual countries rather than broader European interests.

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Sunday’s marathon voting concludes a four-day election cycle that began Thursday in the Netherlands.

An unofficial poll there suggested Wilders’s hard-right, anti-immigration party would form. Important gains In the Netherlands, a coalition of pro-European parties relegated it to second place.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who will hold the EU’s rotating presidency until the end of the month after voting in the Flanders region, warned that Europe was “at a crossroads” and “under more pressure than ever”.

After the last EU election in 2019, populist or far-right parties now lead governments in three countries – Hungary, Slovakia and Italy – and are part of governing coalitions in other countries, including Sweden, Finland and, soon, the Netherlands. Polls favor the populists France, Belgium, Austria and Italy.

“The right is good,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who leads a hardline nationalist and anti-immigrant government, told reporters after his vote. “It’s always better to go right. Go right!”

After the election comes a period of horse-trading, as political parties renegotiate their places in the continent-wide political coalitions that run the European Parliament.

The largest political group – the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) – has moved to the right during the current elections on issues such as security, climate and migration.

is one of the most viewed questions Brothers of Italy Meloni’s ruling party – a populist with neo-fascist roots – is among the most hard-line European conservatives and reformers, or becomes part of a new hard-right group that could produce an electoral surge. Meloni has a desire to work with EPP.

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The ECR’s consolidation of hard-right influence combined with Le Pen’s identity and democracy will be a very worrying situation for pro-European parties.

The second largest group – the centre-left Socialists and Democrats – and the Greens refuse to align themselves with the ECR.

There are also questions about which group Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party might join. It was formerly part of the EPP Forced out 2021 due to conflicts over its interests and values. The far-right Alternative for Germany has been kicked out of the Identity and Democracy Group following a series of scandals surrounding its two leading candidates for the European Parliament.

The election also marks a period of uncertainty as new leaders are elected at the helm of the European institutions. While lawmakers jostle for seats in the coalition, governments will vie for top EU jobs for their national officials.

Chief among them is the leadership of the powerful executive body, the European Commission, which proposes laws and monitors to ensure they are respected. The Commission controls the EU’s purse strings, regulates trade and is Europe’s competition watchdog.

Other plum positions include European Council president, who chairs summits of presidents and prime ministers, and EU foreign policy chief, the bloc’s top diplomat.

Unofficial estimates come from 1615 GMT. Official results of the five-yearly referendum will be released after the last polling stations in the 27 EU countries close at 11pm (2100 GMT) in Italy, but a clear picture of what the new assembly will look like will only become clear on Monday.

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Sylvain Blassy in Brussels and Keir Molson in Berlin contributed to this report.

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