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EU election: Turnout highest in 20 years

May 26, 2019

Voter turnout is on track to rise for the first time since European Parliament elections began in 1979. Stakes are high as far-right groups and euroskeptic populist parties aim to gain ground.

Voters pick up voting material in Lyon
Image: picture-alliance/AP/L. Cipriani

For the latest results from the European Parliament elections, click here.

  • Europeans from 21 countries voted on the fourth and final day of the EU parliamentary elections.
  • Italy is the last country to officially close polling stations at 11:00 local time (21:00 UTC).
  • First official projections of the make up of the European Parliament were expected shortly after. 

All updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC).

19:00 Polls across most EU countries have closed. As voting winds down in the high-stakes elections, we're moving over to results. Click here for the latest from the EU's high-stakes elections.

17:55 DW's Ben Knight examines the potential fallout of German parties' performance in the European elections. One scenario could trigger fresh elections. Click here to read more.

17:46 Manfred Weber, the Christian Democrat tapped to lead the European Commission for the European People's Party (EPP), said the high voter turnout across the bloc is the "most important" news from the polls.

"People went to vote, they participated," Weber told DW. "They used their right to vote to decide about the future of Europe and that gives the European Parliament much more credibility and legitimacy for the future of the continent."

Read more: What does the European Parliament actually do?

17:30 As voting across the EU winds down, the European Parliament elections are on track to be the first time voter participation has risen since the process started in 1979.

16:41 Voter turnout was significantly higher in Germany than the previous election, hitting 59%, up from 48% in 2014.

16:36 Results are streaming in. From Germany to Greece, click here for the latest.

16:22 In Hungary, voter turnout is significantly higher than the 2014 election. By 5:00 pm local time, participation was at 37%, up from 24% in the last vote, according to the Hungarian electoral commission.

Read more: Hungary's youth look to an EU future

15:56 Exiled Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is expecting to win a seat in the European Parliament, reported Politico Europe, citing his spokesman. Puigdemont ran his campaign out of Brussels, where he resides after fleeing his native Spain over his involvement in an illegal referendum on Catalan independence.

15:31 A polls-based projection by Austrian media shows Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's center-right People's Party (ÖVP) in the lead with 34.5%. The former coalition partner in Kurz's government, the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), saw support fall to 17.5% on the heels of "Ibiza-gate." Click here for more results.

15:20 The French Interior Ministry said voter turnout was significantly higher at 5:00 pm local time (15:00 UTC) compared to the last European election. Participation hit 43%, up from 35% in 2014.

Read more: How young voters matter in European Parliament elections

14:17 Germany's election authority said 29% of eligible voters had cast ballots by 2:00 pm local time (16:00 UTC), up from 26% at the same time last European election.

13:50 Guy Verhofstadt, European Parliament's Brexit coordinator and leader of the liberal ALDE group, cast his vote in his hometown Ghent. "I hope you used your right to vote as well," he said in a tweet.

13:43 The UK's Conservative Party is bracing for major losses in the European elections. Daniel Hannan, a Tory and European lawmaker, said his party could be "wiped out" for failing to get any of the UK's 73 seats.

"So this is what annihilation feels like," Hannan said in an op-ed published by The Telegraph. "I can tell you now that the Conservatives have been wiped out. I don't expect to hold my seat; and, if I have lost then so, on a uniform swing, has every Tory MEP."

Read more: EU's Tusk says not to give up on 'dream' of Brexit U-turn

13:35 Seats in the European Parliament are allocated out proportionally, based on each member state's population. Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta have the fewest seats with six each, while the EU's most populous member, Germany, has 96 seats. The results from member states will be released this evening after the last polling station in the bloc is closed.

Read more: Forward or backward? Decision time in the EU 

12:53 Several "yellow vests" protesters were detained by police during the last day of the European Parliament elections in Brussels on Sunday. Footage posted on social media showed officers running through the streets of the Belgian capital. 

12:45 "I don't want to see a right-populist Europe [that] wants to destroy the idea of togetherness," said Manfred Weber, the Christian Democrat tapped to lead the European Commission for the European People's Party (EPP). The center-right EPP is currently the biggest group in the legislature. 

12:34 Early turnout figures in some EU member states showed an increase from the 2014 European Parliamentary elections, reported DW's EU correspondent Georg Matthes. Hungary, France and Romania all reported increases: 17.2%, 19.2% and 19.7% respectively. 

12:29 The Czech Republic's political mainstream is under pressure from the far-right, in particular the anti-migrant Freedom and Direct Democracy party (EFDD) who has managed to keep the perceived threat from migration very much alive, and the other parties have had to react, reported DW's Prague correspondent Rob Cameron. "Which is why we're being treated to the sight of tough-talking Prime Minister Andrej Babis in a Trump-inspired red baseball cap with the words 'Strong Czech Republic' emblazoned across it."

12:20 Outgoing European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, tweeted that he voted. Today's election will help determine who replaces the Luxembourger as head of the Commission as well as other top EU jobs. 

12:20 The center-right is expected to remain the largest group in the next European Parliament despite shedding seats, while two euroskeptic groups could see their combined support climb, according to an EU-wide survey conducted ahead of today's vote.

Read more: Center-right projected to remain biggest group in EU Parliament 

EU Parliament seat projection

11:50 Among those standing for European office in Romania are ex-tennis legend Ilie Nastase, a priest, three former Romanian prime ministers, an ex-president, as well as the former prime minister of neighboring Moldova, reported DW's Kit Gillet. "Support for the EU remains strong in Romania, one of the bloc’s newest member states. None of Romania's parties are campaigning on a euro-skeptic platform."   

Leader of Austria's Social Democrats (SPÖ) Pamela Rendi-Wagner and her husband Michael Rendi after voting in Vienna
Leader of Austria's Social Democrats (SPÖ) Pamela Rendi-Wagner and her husband Michael Rendi after voting in ViennaImage: picture-alliance/ATA/picturedesk/G. Hochmuth

10:40 The Kotleba-People's Party Our Slovakia (LSNS) — a far-right party that has 14 seats in the Slovakian parliament — is expected to win seats in the EU legislature for the first time. Last month, Slovakia's Supreme Court rejected a call by the country's state prosecutor to outlaw the party. It is one of a number of far-right and anti-immigrant parties around Europe calling for EU-membership withdrawal referendums

10:17 In France, voter turnout was a record 19.26% at noon (10:00 UTC) compared to 15.79% at the same time during the last European Parliamentary elections in 2014, according to the country's interior ministry. Could that tip the balance in an election where centrist Emmanuel Macron's list and the far-right RN are predicted to be neck and neck?, asked DW correspondent Lisa Louis on Twitter.

French far-right National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen talks to the media after casting her ballot during the European Parliament Elections, in Henin-Beaumon
The election is considered a showdown between French President Emmanuel Macron and French far-right National Rally leader Marine Le PenImage: Reuters/P. Rossignol

10:10 The British government is facing a potential legal challenge over the denial of votes to EU citizens. Hundreds — if not thousands — of non-British EU citizens were turned away from polling stations on Thursday after being told they were not registered to vote in the United Kingdom for the election of the European Parliament.

Read more: EU citizens denied vote to sue UK government 

09:51 Manfred Weber, the center-right German candidate to head the European Commission, said he hopes voters will back a "Europe of stability" and a united and ambitious continent. "I don't want to see a right-populist Europe (that) wants to destroy the idea of togetherness ... and I'm also against a Europe which is in the hands of the left."

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his wife Elke Buedenbender cast their votes in Berlin
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his wife Elke Buedenbender cast their votes in BerlinImage: Reuters/F. Bensch

09:40 Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz — whose governing coalition collapsed a week ago amid a video scandal — said he hopes the elections will strengthen the center rather than parties on the far-right and left.

09:10 Spanish caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called on "all the political forces to open a horizon of political stability" after voting in Madrid. He said that the elections are "to decide the future of progress and wellbeing for the entirety of our country and Europe."

Spain's acting PM Sanchez casts his vote in Pozuelo de Alarcon, outside Madrid
Spain's acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez casts his vote in Pozuelo de Alarcon, outside Madrid Image: Reuters/S. Vera

08:45 Voting in Belgium is obligatory, as DW's EU correspondent Georg Matthes pointed out on Twitter. Voting is also compulsory for both nationals and registered non-national EU citizens living in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece and Luxembourg. 

07:45 The election will hopefully strengthen anti-immigration political forces across Europe, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said after casting his vote in Budapest. "I hope that there will be a shift in the European public arena in favor of those political parties who would like to stop migration." Orban rejects any redistribution of refugees across the bloc 

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his wife Aniko Levai cast their ballots during the European Parliament Elections in Budapest
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his wife Aniko Levai cast their ballots in BudapestImage: Reuters/B. Szabo

07:15 Support for the Green Party surged in Ireland — where the vote was held on Friday — putting the Greens on course to win as many as three European seats, according to an exit poll for broadcasters RTE/TG4. European Greens co-lead candidate Bas Eickhout spoke of a "green wave" rolling on to Irish shores from the Netherlands, where an exit poll put GroenLinks' (GreenLeft's) share of the vote up to 10.5%. 

06:40 The European Parliament forms the democratic basis of the European Union. It plays a key role in electing the president of the European Commission and ensures EU institutions are working democratically. The Parliament shares power over the bloc's budget and legislation with the Council of the European Union, which represents the governments of member states. Elections to the Parliament take place every five years and voter turnout has been steadily declining. In 2014 it was the lowest ever — just 42.5%.

EU elections explained

06:25 Around 400 million people are eligible to vote for 751 MEPs who will serve for the next five years and help shape Europe’s future. There's a lot at stake. The issues of Brexit, immigration and the rise of right-wing parties across the bloc could bring some surprises and make these polls the most important since the first direct elections 40 years ago.

06:00 Polling stations in 21 EU countries, including major EU states of Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Poland, have opened.

Read more: EU election: Europeans head to the polls across the continent

Voting is also taking place in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Sweden.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel prepares to cast his vote for the Belgian general and regional elections and for the European Parliament Elections in Limal
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel prepares to cast his vote in LimalImage: Reuters/Y. Herman

Four-day continent-wide elections

The Netherlands and the UK headed to the EU polls on Thursday — the first day of election — followed by Ireland and the Czech Republic on Friday and Latvia, Malta and Slovakia on Saturday.

A total of 420 million EU citizens are eligible to cast their ballot in these elections.

According to exit polls, the Netherlands' center-left party of EU Vice President Frans Timmermans won the most votes and added two seats to the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) bloc in the EU Parliament.

In Britain, hundreds of non-British EU citizens were turned away from polling stations on Thursday after being told they were not registered to vote in the UK for the election. The British government is now facing a potential legal challenge over the denial of votes to EU citizens.

As Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Poland send almost half of all MEPs to the European Parliament – 348 out of a total 751 – the Sunday vote is dubbed the most crucial of all rounds. Opinion polls suggest that far-right groups and Euroskeptics could gain more strength in the European Parliament, with populist parties such as Marine Le Pen's National Rally in France and Matteo Salvini's Northern League in Italy are expected to perform well in the polls.

Read more: Opinion: The EU's future and the European Parliament vote

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ls,kw,shs/rc (Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP) 

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