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Millions go to the polls on the final day as the right seeks a surge

Via Paul Kirby, BBC News, Brussels

EPA A boy votes in the European elections in Riga, Latvia, June 8, 2024EPA

Europeans will have a clear idea of ​​the result by the end of Sunday

Europeans in 20 countries will go to the polls in the biggest and final election day for the European Parliament.

In a year of many important elections, the EU vote is especially important, on a continent that has seen polarized politics and rising nationalism.

The race to the vote marked by incidents of violence – although the attack that left Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen with a whip and forced her to suspend her election campaign was not seen as politically motivated.

Europe’s main centre-right group is expected to come out on top across the EU when the first predictions emerge later on Sunday, however the three far-right parties all eye winning the most seats across the EU. country.

France’s national protest, Italy’s Brothers of Italy and Austria’s Freedom Party are leading in the polls, as is Belgium’s separatist and anti-immigrant party, Vlaams Belang.

Voting began on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for some EU countries – but the majority of EU member states will vote on Sunday. The European Parliament is a direct link between Europeans and EU institutions.

Voting for 16 year olds

16 and 17 year olds will be able to vote for the first time in Germany and Belgium, increasing the size of European youth voting. Austrian and Maltese youth have been able to vote from age 16 for some time, and Greeks can vote from age 17.

In Germany alone, an estimated 1.4 million 16- and 17-year-olds are eligible out of about 5 million first-time voters, so they could make a difference to the outcome.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has claimed success in attracting young men, especially through campaigns on social media platforms such as TikTok.

Getty Images A protester holds up a reading poster "Hate is not an opinion" when she participated in a protest to defend democracy against the far right on June 8, 2024 in Berlinbeautiful images

These young voters participated in anti-AfD protests in Berlin on the eve of the vote

Belgian are also voting in federal and regional elections, as well as in the European vote. Voting in Belgium is mandatory, but young Belgians were less enthusiastic about the vote in the Flemish town of Aalst.

Vlaams Belang has won there before, although so far no party has been willing to cooperate with it. A young woman named Simona said young people are especially concerned about their anti-immigration stance: “They like their policies towards people coming here from abroad.”

Many of the town’s young voters approached by the BBC said they had not yet decided how to vote, whether at European or national level.

Dutch anti-Muslim populist Geert Wilders visited Aalst on the eve of the vote to boost Vlaams Belang’s chances.

Getty Images Vlaams Belang Chairman Tom Van Grieken (left) and Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders (right) pose for a photo during a meeting of the Flemish far-right party Vlaams Belang, in Aalst, Saturday, June 8, 2024beautiful images

Geert Wilders (right) went to Aalst on Saturday to support Vlaams Belang

Dutch Voters went to the polls on Thursday and opinion polls showed his party trailing the left-wing coalition. The results won’t be known until Sunday evening.

European voters’ priorities have changed significantly since the last vote in 2019, with Russia’s war in Ukraine and the cost of living now central in people’s minds, while migration , health and the economy are also key factors. Five years ago, British voters participated in the last election before Brexit.

“We want a Europe capable of defending itself,” said Ursula von der Leyen, who has led the European Commission for the past five years and is campaigning for another term. These elections will also play a key role in deciding who will run the EU executive.

But voters are influenced by national issues as well as European politics, as highlighted by the Dutch poll, which found they were equally important to 48% voters.

The biggest race on Sunday is in Germanywhere 96 of the 720 seats in the National Assembly are at stake.

Ms. von der Leyen’s conservative CDU/CSU party in Germany is widely expected to win and the biggest fight is for second place, with Prime Minister Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats being beaten by both partners. His coalition is the Green Party and the opposition AfD challenger.

Violence during elections

Several EU countries have seen violent attacks in the run-up to the election, and in Germany, politicians and campaigners have been targeted.

In the eastern city of Dresden, Social Democratic Party candidate Matthias Ecke was seriously injured in an attack by teenagers and a Green activist was attacked, while in Berlin a former minister was beaten head.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser warned of a new dimension of anti-democratic violence and said Germany’s laws and constitution “must and will continue to strengthen the protection of democratic forces in our country.”

Robert Fico/Facebook Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico voted on Saturday in the hospitalRobert Fico/Facebook

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico voted on Saturday in the hospital

Slovak President Robert Fico narrowly escaped death after being shot while meeting with supporters last month.

He has since turned his anger on his political opponents, in an apparent attempt to boost support for his populist left-wing party Smer.

Danish Social Democratic Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen was knocked to the ground by a man on Friday, and although there was no clear political motive, she had to stop campaigning.

Races worth watching in France and Hungary

IN FranceMarine Le Pen’s nationwide rally is hoping to increase its share of the country’s 81 seats, with polls showing it ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s Renew party and the resurgent Socialist Party under Raphaël Glucksmann’s time.

The big attraction for National Rally is its 28-year-old leader, Jordan Bardella, who has led the European campaign.

The government has taken Mr. Bardella seriously enough that Prime Minister Gabriel Attal joined him in a live debate, criticizing his party’s close ties with the Kremlin.

Mr. Macron’s party list participating in this election is headed by Valérie Hayer, a little-known politician compared to Jordan Bardella.

Meanwhile, in HungaryViktor Orban’s Fidesz party is facing one of the biggest challenges to his rule to date from Peter Magyar and his new center-right party Tisza.

For all major national races, real power in the European Parliament is held by political groups from the various member states, and it is the center-right European People’s Party made up of conservative parties. Conservatives across the EU are widely believed to remain the largest party. political forces in the 720-seat hall.

The center-left has few parties in power in Europe but is still expected to come in second.

The outgoing European Parliament

The two right-wing groups, which include several far-right parties, are expected to increase their support.

Giorgia Meloni’s party Italy’s brethren are in the European Conservatives and Reformists along with Spain’s Vox and the Swedish Democrats, while France’s National Rally Party is part of Identity & Democracy, also such as the Italian League and the Austrian Freedom Party.

That leaves open the question of whether they are willing to work together, or whether they can find common ground with the center-right.

The big losers in this contest are likely to be centrists, including France’s Renewal Party and the Green Party. As one Green campaigner in Brussels said on the eve of the vote: “Everything has turned right.”


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