EU set for election `Super Sunday`, with far-right vote in spotlight
European elections reach their culmination on "Super Sunday" when the remaining 20 of the EU`s 28 countries go to the polls, with the vote expected to confirm the dominance of pro-European centrists despite a rise in support for the far-right and left.
Brussels: European elections reach their culmination on "Super Sunday" when the remaining 20 of the EU`s 28 countries go to the polls, with the vote expected to confirm the dominance of pro-European centrists despite a rise in support for the far-right and left.
Germany, France, Spain and Poland are among the major EU member states voting on Sunday, representing the bulk of the 388 million Europeans eligible to cast ballots and elect the 751 deputies to sit in the European Parliament from 2014-2019.
After years of economic crisis, rising unemployment and poor growth, many Europeans have come to question the wisdom of ever-closer EU integration and are expected to vote for Eurosceptic parties on the right or left promising radical changes.
Opinion polls suggest at least a quarter of seats in the parliament will go to anti-EU or protest groups, but at least 70 percent will remain with the four mainstream, pro-EU blocs: the center-left, center-right, liberals and Greens.
Turnout - the most basic measure of citizens` engagement with Europe - is expected to fall again, dropping to just over 40 percent, marginally down from 43 percent in 2009. That would continue the trend of declining participation at every European election since the first direct poll was held in 1979.
While expectations ahead of the vote were that far-right groups would record historic victories in countries such as France, the Netherlands and Britain, exit polls from the Netherlands, which voted on Thursday, were a surprise.
Geert Wilders` anti-EU and anti-Islam Freedom Party came fourth rather than first, according to exit polls from Ipsos, with the majority voting for pro-EU parties. That has left centrists hoping for a wider surprise.
"At the end of the campaign, and after reflection, the Dutch have drawn the conclusion that the European Union means strength and extreme nationalism is a danger," said Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the liberal alliance and a former prime minister of Belgium whose group may win up to 70 seats in parliament.
"On Sunday, the only alternative is to vote for candidates with strong liberal and democratic values."
The European Parliament has said it will announce preliminary results shortly after 2100 GMT on Sunday, although officials caution that Italy`s decision to keep polls open until the same time may well delay any announcement.
Final results and the precise allotment of seats in parliament is expected to be announced by the end of Monday.