Sunday 16 June 2019

Populists on course to change face of Brussels

Germany’s anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) leader Joerg Meuthen welcomes first exit polls in Berlin. Photo: REUTERS/Axel Schmidt
Germany’s anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) leader Joerg Meuthen welcomes first exit polls in Berlin. Photo: REUTERS/Axel Schmidt
Belgian ‘yellow vests’ protesters are hit with a spray by police during scuffles in Brussels. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman
French President Emmanuel Macron kisses the head of a wellwisher after casting his ballot in Le Touquet, northern France. Photo: Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS

James Crisp

Eurosceptic parties en­joyed their best ever results in the European elections last night as voters in their millions voted for populists and abandoned the two groups that have dominated EU politics for the last 40 years.

A total of 171 MEPs were returned from Eurosceptic parties across the EU, according to preliminary results. But with seats split between three political groups, the populists will be unable to alter the push for closer EU integration from the dominant Europhile parties. In the 2014 European elections, 155 MEPs from anti-EU parties were returned to the European Parliament.

Early predictions suggested turnout increased in comparison to 2014 to between 49pc and 52pc, arresting a steady decline that had continued since the first EU election in 1979.

French President Emmanuel Macron was handed a pivotal kingmaker role in the next five years of EU policymaking, despite his Renaissance party group being beaten into second place in the French vote by Marine Le Pen's anti-EU National Rally.

Renaissance won 22.4pc of the French votes, roughly 22 seats, while National Rally, which also topped the 2014 vote, took 24.2pc of the vote, a single MEP more, according to early results.

"This confirms the new divide between nationalists and globalists," Ms Le Pen said at a victory rally in France.

The centre-right European People's Party (EPP) returned 173 MEPs, shedding 48 seats, while the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) lost 44 MEPs to return 147. Traditional parties also bled support to a "green wave" in some countries, leaving the most fragmented parliament ever.

While the EPP and S&D remain the largest groups, it is the first time in 40 years they failed to secure a joint majority in the 751-seat parliament, falling 56 seats short. They have always carved up the top EU jobs between them to ease the passage of EU rules through the parliament. Their losses will have ramifications for their ability to pass EU law and influence the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker's successor and the new European Commission, expected to take office in November.

Totting up: Ballots are tallied at a counting centre for the European parliamentary election in Sunderland. Photo: REUTERS/Scott Heppell
Totting up: Ballots are tallied at a counting centre for the European parliamentary election in Sunderland. Photo: REUTERS/Scott Heppell

The EPP and S&D are expected to form a coalition with Mr Macron's Renaissance party and ALDE, the pro-EU European Liberals and third-largest group after last night's results with an estimated 102 seats, to head off the Eurosceptic menace to Brussels. Mr Macron has allied his new party with the Liberals and is expected to demand EPP and S&D back his Europhile agenda for reform and influential EU posts in return for the group's support.

Both Mr Macron and Italy's Matteo Salvini, whose League party made big gains, vowed to use the elections to reform the EU.

Support fell for Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, EPP members, according to exit polls, while the far-right Alternative for Germany, secured 10pc of the vote - not the surge some had predicted.

Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called a snap election following the defeat of his Syriza party.

Mr Tsipras said: "The result does not rise to our expectations. I will not ignore it or quit". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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