European Union elections kick off as Dutch polls open

Europeans from 21 countries have started voting on the fourth and final day of the EU parliamentary elections.

But the latest opinion polls by media firm Politico indicate that the centrist parties may fall short of the majority, with only about 315 seats.

Italy was being watched to see how well its deputy prime minister, the rollicking populist Matteo Salvini of the League, did against his coalition partners, the Five Star movement.

Voters in Brexit-bound Britain cast ballots today at the start of a 28-nation European election in which eurosceptic, anti-immigration forces have vowed to create a political quake that will shake the Brussels establishment. An estimated 426 million people were eligible to vote.

The highest numbers of voters were recorded at three polling stations in London, followed by those in Antwerp (Belgium), Hamburg (Germany), Chisinau (Moldova), Brussels (Belgium), Le Blanc Mesnil (France) and Regensburg (Germany), according to official data from the Central Electoral Bureau - BEC. The voter turnout at the last election in 2014 was just over 18 percent.

With the centre-right and centre-left parties losing their joint majority in informal coordination on voting over the last five years, they have been courting support from other parties.

Populist far-right groups gain, however, a lot less ground than initially anticipated by the political analysts, with the advance of the right being less pronounced in Germany, where a strong showing by the Greens produced the story of the night, while the anti-immigrant Alternative for Deutschland broke the 10% barrier.

But the right and the far-right have not had everything their own way so far.

The migration issue "will reorganize the political spectrum in the European Union", said Orban, who recently met with Salvini but has not yet committed to joining the Italian's group.

Far-right parties are expected to increase their standing in the European Parliament, but are not expected to take more than a fifth of seats in the May 23-26 election. In Denmark a record 63% of voters have gone to the polls, while in France turnout is predicted to be 54%, the highest in 35 years.

Britain was never meant to take part in the elections but May was forced to trigger the vote after delaying the planned Brexit date of March 29 after parliament refused to approve the divorce deal. Its EU lawmakers would lose their jobs as soon as Brexit happens.

With about a third of polling stations accounted for, Mr Tsipras' leftist Syriza party scored less than 24% in the European ballot compared to more than 33% for the main opposition conservative party New Democracy.

"The immigration we get here from Africa and the Mideast is completely contrary to our culture, our values, our way of life, tolerance, love of women and so on", Baudet said.

Traditional parties like the EPP and the centre-left socialist S&D group want the mainstream to build a strong coalition to stave off the fringe parties. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's Socialists on Sunday won their second set of votes in a row, boosting their ambition to secure a top Brussels job.

According to the most recent analysis, the Greens/EFA are expected to win 67 seats, putting them ahead of the ECR and other right-wing Eurosceptic groups such as the ENF and EFDD. Votes cast early and online can not be changed on Election Day.

An ebb in support for mainstream parties furthermore raised hopes among Europe's ecology parties that they could even use their still relatively small presence in the European Union assembly to act as kingmakers in an increasingly fragmented European Union legislature.

  • Leroy Wright