EUROSCEPTICS are set to surge in the EU elections as the old guard of centre-right and centre-left loses its grip on power for the first time.
In France Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, which is part of the ENF, was set to beat Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique En Marche into second place.
An exit poll for the France 2 TV station showed it securing 23.2 per cent of the vote, ahead of the President’s party which was on 21.9 per cent.
In Germany, Angela Merkel was set to suffer a bruising night, with an official EU parliament exit poll showing her CDU party losing further ground.
It was projected 28 per cent of the vote, down from 35.5 per cent in 2014, with the Greens surging into second place ahead of the Social Democrats.
The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany was due to come in fourth with 10.5 per cent.
Anti-Brussels parties, led by Matteo Salvini’s League and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, were expected to take just under a quarter of seats in the EU Parliament.
The Greens and Liberals also made gains at the expense of the traditional big two, the European People’s Party (EPP) and Socialists and Democrats (S&D).
Official EU Parliament seat projections showed the continuing fragmentation of European politics, which will complicate the upcoming fight over who fills the bloc’s top jobs.
In all eurosceptic and reformist parties were expected to claim 171 MEPs in the 751 seat chamber – their best result ever.
The far-right Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), led by Mr Salvini, was forecast to gain 20 additional seats, taking its tally to 57.
Meanwhile the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group (EFDD), which includes Mr Farage’s party, was set for 56 seats.
And the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), which counts the Tories amongst it members, was projected to gain 58.
German MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel, from the ECR, said the new Parliament should do “everything possible to support the Remainers” in the UK.
He said: “Britain has always been an advocate of freedom, of free trade, of self responsibility, of subsidiarity, of less bureaucracy and of competition.
“This European Parliament needs the British and I can only urge everybody to support those people who want to keep Britain in the EU.”
Meanwhile the Brexit Party was forecast to become the single biggest national party in the Parliament, taking 24 seats according to Britain Elects.
In Italy the League party was forecast to score 28-31 per cent of the vote, with fellow eurosceptics Five Star Movement taking a further 20-23 per cent, according to an opinion poll for Rai TV.
Elsewhere the Liberals, boosted by a strong showing for the Remain-backing Lib Dems in the UK, were forecast to gain an extra 35 seats.
Group leader Guy Verhofstadt, who is also EU Parliament Brexit negotiator, said the result set it up as kingmaker over who gets the bloc’s top jobs.
He declared: “There will be a new balance of power in the European Parliament. This new group we will establish will be a crucial group.”
A surge for the Greens in Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany was set to add an extra 21 MEPs to their contingent.
But the EPP and S&D were projected to lose their majority in the chamber for the first time, falling 56 seats short, with their vote share due to plummet.
Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, who has taken a strong anti-migrant stance, said he hoped the election “will reorganise the political spectrum in the EU”.
Pieter Cleppe, from the Open Europe think-tank, said the result showed the EU needs to change tack and hand more powers back to Member States.
He said: “The EU should no longer ignore constructive criticism and it should stop trying to transfer more powers and money to the EU level.
“It’s unlikely that eurosceptics will be able to assert a lot of influence in the European Parliament, as they still only command a minority.
“Indirectly, however, their success is changing the debate and challenging the legitimacy of the EU.”
Eurasia Group director Mutjaba Rahman said the expected defeat for Mr Macron was a personal “blow” given he staked his reputation on beating Ms Le Pen.
He said: “It will hamper his ambition to emerge as the de facto leader of the EU by leading the defence against nationalism and populism.
“The EU finds itself in a more troubling situation compared to 2014 when elections last took place.”
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