French far-right National Rally beats Emmanuel Macron's centrists at European elections

League Party gains ground in Italy, but far-right populists elsewhere make little or no progress

Jon Stone
Europe Correspondent
,Adam Forrest
Sunday 26 May 2019 22:36
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Marine Le Pen reacts to her party's victory in the European Elections

France’s far-right National Rally party has beaten Emmanuel Macron‘s centrists in a close-run EU election.

Marine Le Pen’s party, a rebranding of the National Front, won around 23.5 per cent of the vote to Mr Macron’s allies’ 22.5 per cent, according to vote share projections released on Sunday night.

Projections showed Matteo Salvini’s right-wing League Party gaining in strength in Italy with nearly 34 per cent of the vote. He calculated that populist and nationalist parties will control at least 150 seats in the new 751-seat European Parliament.

But in countries such as Denmark and Germany, groups such as the Danish People’s Party and AfD have stood still or fallen back compared to recent elections – despite predictions of a far-right populist surge.

Even in France the National Rally victory is a mixed one: the almost 24 per cent of the vote is roughly in line with, or even slightly down on what the National Front won in 2014 – meaning Ms Le Pen has made little progress on previous years against an unpopular president.

The lack of progress suggests it will be hard for Ms Le Pen to win a future presidential election, where she must gain a majority for the vote. The far-right leader declared victory on Sunday evening, calling for a “powerful” EU-wide far-right group in the parliament.

In Spain, the Socialists won 20 of the 54 seats allocated to Spain in the European Parliament. Caretaker prime minister Pedro Sanchez said Spain would the leading delegation of Socialists on the European stage, calling it “an enormous opportunity for us but also an enormous responsibility.”

Provisional results from Austria pointed to a big win for Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s centre-right party, days after a scandal involving the far-right Freedom Party brought down his governing coalition. Election officials said that Mr Kurz’s People's Party won 35.4 per cent of the vote.

In Germany the governing parties slid to their worst post-World War II showing in a nationwide election. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right Union bloc won 28.9 per cent of the vote and their coalition partners Social Democrats got only 15.8 per cent. The Greens powered past the Social Democrats into second place.

Leader of Italy's far-right League party Matteo Salvini speaks on election night

The centre-right and centre-left groupings in the European have lost their combine majority in the European Parliament. The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) was projected to win 179 seats, down from 216, while the Socialists and Democrats looked set to fall from 191 seats to 150 seats.

Negotiations will start Monday between groups in the parliament that sits in Brussels and Strasbourg to find a coalition with a workable majority.

The close result between Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen’s parties in France was predicted by most opinion polls.

Elsewhere in France, results show the centre-right Republicans hitting a record low of around 8 per cent – a terrible result for the Gaullists, who not long ago governed the G8 member.

One surprise of the election was a strong result for the country’s Green party, Europe Eologie-Les Verts, who won over 13 per cent – echoing good results for Greens all over Europe.

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