Slovaks and Latvians cast their ballots in EU elections on Saturday as the far right hoped to clinch major gains and deny a pro-Europe victory to French President Emmanuel Macron.
Polls were open in Malta, Slovakia and Latvia, with most of the bloc’s 28 member states — including big players Germany, France and Italy — to vote on Sunday, with turnout expected to be low.
Polling has shown for months that eurosceptics and the anti-immigration far right could make big gains in the vote, which will also help determine who replaces Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the European Commission as well as other top jobs.
More than 400 million people are eligible to elect 751 members of the European Parliament, with the first official results to be announced late Sunday once voting in all EU countries is over.
France’s staunchly pro-European Macron has a big stake in the outcome, hoping to see his centrist Republique en Marche make a strong showing and shake-up EU politics in a direct challenge to the nationalists.
But Marine Le Pen of France’s National Rally and Matteo Salvini of Italy’s anti-immigrant League want to team-up to disrupt the EU establishment, and are wooing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party to join them in parliament.
Salvini’s League tops the polls in Italy and Le Pen’s RN party has an edge in France, with around 25 percent support against Macron’s 22.5 percent.
“Once again Macron is daring us to challenge him. Well let’s take him at his word: On May 26, we’ll challenge him in the voting booth,” Le Pen said at a rally on Friday.
Eurosceptics got a major boost from Britain’s Nigel Farage whose Brexit Party, according to polls, will score a resounding victory in the UK.
If that is confirmed, the veteran Brexiteer would likely group with Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star movement to become another force to destabilise the Strasbourg, France parliament.
Britain voted on Thursday, with Farage’s in-roads helping push Prime Minister Theresa May to step down following months of Brexit crisis.
Farage was handed the opportunity when May was forced to hold the EU elections after delaying Brexit beyond the original date of March 29 because of deadlock in the UK parliament over her divorce deal.
– ‘Biggest threat’ –
However, Europhiles on Thursday got an unexpected boost after exit polls in the Netherlands showed a surprise victory for pro-EU socialists, giving hope to the political mainstream.
Traditional parties also had reason to cheer from an exit poll in Ireland that suggested Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael party, which aligns with the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), was in the lead.
The EPP, which is also home to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party, will likely emerge once again with the largest share of the vote but perhaps not enough to control parliament in a grand coalition with the socialists as it has done for a generation.
The Greens also claimed a solid result in Ireland raising their hopes for big gains in the wake of growing concern about climate change.
“After the Netherlands, the Green Wave has rolled on to Irish shores,” said the party’s co-leading candidate Bas Eickhout.
The days following the election will see the launch of elaborate negotiations to determine key positions in the European institutions, with an EU leaders summit on Tuesday to discuss who gets which jobs.
Turnout is as ever a major concern in the EU elections, with voters in Slovakia historically the least interested, having just 13 percent show up for the last polls five years ago.
“The biggest threat to our freedom is not Russia or (Austrian far rightist Heinz-Christian) Strache or Salvini or Le Pen or Orban; the biggest threat is indifference,” said Dutchman Frans Timmermans, the lead socialist candidate, at a rally in Vienna.
Disinformation is also a worry, though evidence so far has not revealed the level of meddling by foreign actors seen in the US election of Donald Trump in 2016, EU officials said.
Fearing a wave of fake news the EU’s External Action Service has set up a rapid alert system, with a dozen staff, to closely watch social media and warn of possible risks of interference.
Here’s the doomsday scenario in Pennsylvania that could cost Joe Biden the election
On Monday, the Philadelphia Inquirer walked through a potential voter error that could cost Joe Biden Pennsylvania — the exclusion of so-called "naked ballots," or mail-in ballots that aren't properly sealed in two layers of envelopes.
"The state Supreme Court in Pennsylvania, a critical battleground state that’s seen as increasingly likely to determine who wins the White House, last week ordered officials to throw out 'naked ballots' — mail ballots that arrive without inner 'secrecy envelopes,'" reported Jonathan Lai. "Pennsylvania uses a two-envelope mail ballot system: A completed ballot goes into a 'secrecy envelope' that has no identifying information, and then into a larger mailing envelope that the voter signs."
Likely top Trump SCOTUS choice – a right wing religious extremist – was at the White House today
President Donald Trump's current top choice to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg visited the White House on Monday.
Reporters including CNN Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta say Judge Amy Coney Barrett visited the White House today.
Top contender for SCOTUS pick, Amy Coney Barrett was at WH today, we've confirmed.
No one can believe this GOP senator’s embarrassing ad is real
Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia is in a tough race to keep her seat, and at least so far, it seems she’s not sending her best.
Her latest ad baffled many observers, prompting some to genuinely question whether the clip was real. It’s production quality and corniness are so over the top and unprofessional, it’s hard to believe it’s from a sitting senator. And the messaging itself is so hamfisted and unsubtle that it’s hard to imagine it’s an appealing ad for voters, even in Republican-leaning Georgia.
The ad starts with a couple sitting on a sofa talking about how conservative Loeffler is. OK. But then it goes off the rails when it literally says that Loeffler is “more conservative than Attila the Hun.” Yes, really. And it only gets worse.