EU election: Far-right wins on EU deal, shock defeats for France’s Macron and Germany’s Scholes

BRUSSELS (AP) — A vote to choose the European Union’s regional lawmakers for the next five-year term has ended after the last remaining vote in Italy, as emerging far-right parties dealt physical blows to two of the bloc’s most important leaders: French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Official results are expected any time after Italian polling stations close at 11pm local time (2100GMT), officially ending a marathon four-day election in the 27 constituent member states.

More than 50 countries will go to the polls in 2024

A preliminary forecast by the European Union showed far-right parties making big gains in the European Parliament.

In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party Dominated the polls A massive political risk that could delay the remainder of his presidential term, which ends in 2027, as Macron immediately dissolves the national parliament and calls for new elections, as his party suffers heavy losses.

AfD federal leaders Alice Weidel, center, and Tino Chrupalla cheer at AfD party headquarters during a preview of the European elections in Berlin on Sunday, June 9, 2024. (AP via Joerg Carstensen/dpa)

Le Pen was happy to accept the challenge. “We are ready to turn the country around, ready to defend the interests of the French, ready to put an end to mass immigration,” he said, echoing the cries of many celebrating far-right leaders in other countries. Substantial successes.

Macron conceded defeat. “I have heard your message, your concerns, and I will not leave them unanswered,” he said, adding that calling for snap elections only underscored his democratic credentials.

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Germany, the most populous country in the 27-member bloc, Predictions are indicated Rising to 16.5% from 11% in 2019, the AfD overcame a string of scandals involving its primary candidate. By comparison, the combined result of the three parties in the German governing coalition barely reached 30%.

Scholz suffered such an ignominious fate that his longtime Social Democratic Party fell behind the far-right Alternative for Germany, which rose to second place. “After all the prophecies of doom, after the barrage of attacks of the past few weeks, we are the second strongest force,” AfD leader Alice Weidel said.

The four-day referendum in 27 EU countries is the world’s second largest exercise in democracy, behind India’s recent election. In the end, the rise of the far right has been more dramatic than many analysts predicted.

The French National Rally is projected at 15%, with 30%, or twice as much as Macron’s pro-European centrist Renewal Party.

French far-right National Rally front-runner Jordan Bartella gives a speech at the party's election night headquarters in Paris, Sunday, June 9, 2024.  France's first forecast results put the far-right National Rally party in the lead in EU elections, according to French polling firms.  (AP Photo/Louis Jolly)

French far-right National Rally front-runner Jordan Bartella gives a speech at the party’s election night headquarters in Paris, Sunday, June 9, 2024. France’s first forecast results put the far-right National Rally party in the lead in EU elections, according to French polling firms. (AP Photo/Louis Jolly)

Across the EU as a whole, two mainstream and pro-European groups, the Christian Democrats and the Socialists, were the dominant forces. The far-right’s gains came at the expense of the Greens, who were expected to lose about 20 seats and fall back to sixth place in the legislature. Macron’s pro-business Renewal group also lost big.

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For decades, the European Union, with its roots in the defeat of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, confined the hard right to the political fringes. With its strong showing in these elections, the far right can now play a key role in policies ranging from migration to security and climate.

The trend was fueled by former EU president and current Polish prime minister Donald Tusk, who overthrew the national conservative Law and Justice party that ruled Poland from 2015-23 and moved it further to the right. One poll showed Tusk’s party winning 38%, compared to his bitter rival’s 34%.

“Among these big, ambitious countries, of EU leaders, Poland shows that democracy, fairness and Europe are winning here,” Tusk told his supporters. “I’m so moved.”

He declared, “We have shown that we are the beacon of hope for Europe.”

Germany, traditionally a bastion of environmentalists, highlighted the decline of the Greens, who were predicted to fall from 20% to 12%. With further losses expected in France and elsewhere, a defeat for the Greens could have ramifications for the EU as a whole. Climate change policiesYet the rest of the world is very progressive.

EU Commission President Ursula van der Leyen of the centre-right Christian Democrats, already weakened its green credentials Ahead of the referendum, it dominated Germany with almost 30%, easily defeating Scholz’s Social Democrats, who fell behind the AfD to 14%.

“You have already set a trend – a strong force, stable, in difficult times and far away,” van der Leyen told his German supporters via video link from Brussels.

As in France, the hard right, which has focused its campaign on migration and crime, was expected to make significant gains in Italy, where Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has sought to consolidate her power.

Voting in Italy continued into the evening and many of the 27 member states had yet to release forecasts. Nevertheless, the data already released confirmed earlier predictions: the elections would shift the bloc to the right and reverse its future. This can make it difficult for the EU to pass legislation, and sometimes paralyze decision-making in the world’s largest trade bloc.

EU lawmakers, who serve five-year terms in the 720-seat parliament, 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 appointments to the powerful EU Commission.

The elections come at a time when voter confidence will be tested in a 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.

After the last EU elections 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!”

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Associated Press reporters Sylvain Blassy in Brussels and Kier Molson in Berlin contributed to this report.

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Check out AP’s coverage of the 2024 global elections Here.

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