Centrists bashed far-right surge as four-day EU polls end

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Marine Le Pen, president of the French far-right parliamentary group National Rally, is surrounded by journalists as she arrives at the RN party headquarters in Paris, the day after the French far-right victory in the European Parliament vote and the announcement of early legislative measures. elections in France, on June 10, 2024. | Photo credit: Reuters

A four-day election has shaken the foundations of the European Union, with the far right rocking the ruling parties in France and Germany, the bloc’s traditional driving forces.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called early national elections after Marine Le Pen’s National Rally humiliated his pro-European centrists at the polls. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats also suffered as the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) shrugged off scandals to make huge gains.

In Italy, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s party, which has neo-fascist roots, won more than 28% of the national vote for the EU assembly, which would make it a key player in forming future alliances.

Green and pro-business liberal groups across Europe suffered heavy defeats, but mainstream formations held firm, with the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) remaining the largest bloc in the 27-nation EU assembly.

Voters in France will return to the polls in just three weeks after Macron dissolved parliament and called early national elections. Ms. Le Pen’s anti-immigration, nationalist party was estimated to receive about 31%-32% of the vote. Although a victory in the National Rally was expected, the size of the victory was a surprise, more than doubling the share of Macron’s Renaissance Party, which was expected to be around 15%.

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Mr Scholz’s ruling Social Democrats recorded their worst post-World War II result in a national vote, with 13.9%. The AfD finished in second place with around 15.9%. The result is better than the AfD’s 11% in 2019, but still lags behind opinion polls earlier this year. The center-right Union bloc of the German opposition received 30% of the votes.

The centre-right EPP is expected to win 191 seats in the EU assembly and remains by far the largest group. The EPP won a few more seats, but Parliament is also expanding from 705 seats in 2019 to 720 seats this year, so the increase was marginal. The second largest bloc, the center-left Socialists and Democrats, lost some ground, but easily retained its place with 135 seats.

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