European elections: German and Dutch opinion polls indicate a shift towards the far right

BRUSSELS (AP) — The first major estimates released by European Union parliamentary elections Sunday suggests the hard right will rise in the legislature while the center may hold out better than expected, leaving the Green Party to take the biggest hit.

In Germany, a traditional bastion of environmentalists, support for the Green Party was expected to fall from 20% to 12%, with further losses expected in France and several other EU countries. Their defeat could have an impact on the European Union in general Climate change policies Which still stands out as the most progressive worldwide.

More than 50 countries will go to the polls in 2024

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s center-right Christian Democratic bloc, which had already weakened its green credentials ahead of the election, dominated the EU’s most populous country by almost 30%, beating Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats, which declined. Voting percentage reached 14%, even behind the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

Forecasts by German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF indicated that the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party had risen to 16.5% from 11% in 2019. The combined result of the three parties in the German ruling coalition was barely more than 30%.

“What I have already identified as a direction is the best – the strongest force, stable, in difficult times and at a distance,” von der Leyen told her German supporters via video link from Brussels.

However, the far right, which has focused its campaign on immigration and crime, is still expected to top results in the EU’s second and third most populous countries, with Marine Le Pen’s party dominating France and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni tipped to strengthen her party. Power in Italy.

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Voting in Italy will continue until late in the evening, and many of the 27 member states have not yet issued any forecasts. However, polls and forecasts have confirmed earlier predictions: the EU’s massive exercise in democracy is expected to shift the bloc to the right and reorient its future.

The war in Ukraine, migration, and the impact of climate policy on farmers have weighed on voters’ minds Cast your vote To elect 720 members European Parliament For the next five years.

With the center losing seats to far-right parties, the European Union may find it more difficult to pass legislation and the decision-making process may be paralyzed at times in the world’s largest trading bloc. “I hope we can avoid a shift to the right and that Europe will somehow remain united,” voter Laura Simon said in Berlin.

EU lawmakers have a say on issues ranging from fiscal rules to climate and agricultural policy. They approve the EU budget, which funds priorities including infrastructure projects and agricultural support Aid provided to Ukraine. They have veto power over appointments to the powerful EU Commission.

These elections come at a time of testing voter confidence in a bloc that includes about 450 million people. Over the past five years, the E.U Shaken by the coronavirus pandemicthat Economic recession And Energy crisis Fueled by the largest territorial conflict in Europe since World War II. But political campaigns often focus on issues of concern in individual countries rather than on broader European interests.

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

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An informal poll of voters leaving the polls indicated that Wilders’ far-right, anti-immigrant party would win. Important gains In the Netherlands, though, a coalition of pro-European parties may have pushed it into second place.

Casting his vote in the Flanders region, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union until the end of the month, warned that Europe was “at a crossroads” and “under greater pressure than ever before.”

Since 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 ruling coalitions in others including Sweden, Finland, and soon the Netherlands. Opinion polls give populists an advantage France, Belgium, Austria and Italy.

“The right is a good thing,” Hungarian Prime Minister Orban, who leads a nationalist, anti-immigrant government, told reporters after casting his vote. “Going right is always good. Go right!”

After the elections comes a period of bargaining, as political parties reconsider their positions in the continent-wide alliances that run the European legislature.

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

Among the most frequently viewed questions is whether Italy brothers – The ruling party led by the populist Meloni, which has neo-fascist roots – remains within the group of more hard-line European conservatives and reformists or becomes part of a new far-right group that could be formed in the wake of the elections. Meloni also has the option of working with EPP.

The most worrying scenario for pro-European parties is for the European Council for Political Reform to join forces with Le Pen’s Identity and Democracy group to strengthen the influence of the far right.

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The second largest group – the centre-left Socialists and Democrats – and the Green Party refuse to join the European Council for Reform.

Questions also remain about which group Orban’s ruling Fidesz party might join. He used to be part of the European People’s Party but that was it Forced out In 2021 due to conflicts over its interests and values. The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has been expelled from the Identity and Democracy group following a series of scandals surrounding its two leading candidates for the European Parliament.

The elections also herald a period of uncertainty as new leaders of the European institutions are chosen. As lawmakers jostle for places in coalitions, governments will compete to secure top EU jobs for their national officials.

The most important of these is the presidency of the powerful executive, the European Commission, which proposes laws and monitors them to ensure their respect. The Commission also controls EU resources, administers trade, and is Europe’s competition watchdog.

Other important positions include that of President of the European Council, who chairs summits of presidents and prime ministers, and that of the European Union’s foreign policy chief, who is the bloc’s most senior diplomat.

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Associated Press journalists Sylvain Blazy in Brussels and Geir Molson in Berlin contributed to this report.

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Watch AP’s coverage of the global elections in 2024 here.

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