Support for centrist parties across Europe collapsed as nationalists, liberals and Greens made huge gains on the Continent in Sunday’s EU-wide elections.
The poll provided a boost to far-right parties, with Marine le Pen’s Rassemblement National (formerly known as Front National) and Matteo Salvini’s Lega Nord, in France and Italy, recording stunning victories in their respective states.
But, while centrists blocs lost their combined majority in the European Parliament, the pro-EU centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) remains the largest bloc overall.
The EPP is now likely to form a “grand coalition” with the Socialists and Democrats bloc, with support from liberals and the Greens.
Populists gained ground in a number of European states, but the sweeping some analysts were predicting failed to materialise, with the Liberals and Greens celebrating key victories.
A higher-than-usual turnout of around 51% across 28 EU member states is thought to have been a key driver in moderate forces largely retaining power.
This is how people across Europe voted:
FRANCE: Emmanuel Macron’s allies put on a brave face as exit polls showed a narrow defeat at the hands of Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National party. But such a result would be a clear setback for the French leader, who had personally invested time in campaigning for the European vote. His Elysee Palace said it would “intensify” his reform effort.
GERMANY: Angela Merkel’s ruling conservatives and their Social Democrat (SPD) coalition allies both suffered losses, bleeding support to the Greens in a further test for their loveless coalition. For the SPD, the poor result was exacerbated by a separate defeat in Sunday’s Bremen state election, but party leader Andrea Nahles insisted she would remain in the federal coalition with the CDU.
AUSTRIA: Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz will likely be strengthened in his fight to keep his job until early elections expected in September. His conservative party came a clear first in Sunday’s EU vote despite a recent scandal involving his erstwhile far-right coalition partner. The main opposition party said it would seek to depose him on Monday regardless.
GREECE: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he would call snap elections following the defeat of his Syriza party. Results showed Syriza trailing by up to nine points behind the opposition New Democracy party. Under normal circumstances, Tsipras’s mandate ends in October.
POLAND: Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) came out narrowly ahead in a vote seen as test of the party’s nationalist, eurosceptic platform before a national election later in the year. PiS had framed the European ballot as a battle against western liberal ideals that it says threaten the traditional way of life in Poland, a staunchly Catholic country.
ITALY: The far-right League emerged as Italy’s largest party, overtaking its coalition partner the 5-Star Movement, exit polls showed. The League’s parliamentary leader said such a result, if confirmed, should entitle the League to decide the government’s priorities. League leader Matteo Salvini is pushing for big tax cuts in possible defiance of EU budget rules.
HUNGARY: Viktor Orban’s ruling right-wing Fidesz party won a solid 52.14% of votes on a hardline anti-immigration platform, scoring a big victory over a divided opposition. The result underlines how Orban’s power is cemented until the next election in 2022.
DENMARK: Eurosceptic populists the Danish People’s Party (DF) lost around two-third of their votes, a major setback for them ahead of national elections on June 5. Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen’s Liberal Party overtook DF to become the biggest Danish party in the European Parliament; EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager’s Social-Liberal Party also gained. BULGARIA - The ruling center-right GERB party of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov won 30.5-32.7% of the vote, according to exit polls by two independent pollsters. The win gives Borissov’s coalition government some respite after a scandal over purchases of luxury properties at low prices.
CYPRUS: The Democratic Rally, the ruling conservative party came first in Cyprus with 29% of the vote, with opposition Communist Akel coming a close second with 27%. Based on projected results, Cyprus was to get its first Turkish Cypriot MEP, academic Niyazi Kizilyurek, making history on the ethnically-split island.
ROMANIA: Big losses loomed for the ruling Social Democrats (PSD), according to exit polls, which put them tying for first place with opposition centrists. A new grouping of parties, USR-Plus, secured third place with 24% of votes, opening up the prospect of a wider alliance pushing the PSD out of government next year.
PORTUGAL: Ruling center-left Socialists looked to have won the elections with a higher tally than their 2014 result of 31.46%. That augurs well for them in the country’s October general election, when they typically do better than at European ballots.
IRELAND: The Green Party was set to win as many as three of the 13 seats up for grabs in overwhelmingly pro-EU Ireland, according to exit polls and early counting, putting the small Irish party in line to take its first seats in Europe for 20 years. The governing Fine Gael and main opposition Fianna Fail were well placed while the left wing Sinn Fein appeared to be in a battle to retain all of their three seats.
CZECH REPUBLIC: Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s ANO party, a member of the liberal ALDE grouping, won as expected. ANO, which combines a pro-EU stance with a strongly anti-immigration line, took six seats in the EP, up from its current four.
SPAIN: After winning national elections in April without a majority, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was looking for his Socialists to win the EU elections to boost him in coalition negotiations. Not only did they do that but they also performed well in local and regional elections the same day. (Compiled by Mark John in London with bureaus Editing by Frances Kerry and Andrew Heavens)