The Latest: Salvini says populists will control 150 EU seats
By Associated Press
May 26, 2019 8:02 PM CDT
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Antal Matyus, left, casts his vote as election official Bela Deak holds a moblie urn during the European elections at his farm in Szentkiraly, Hungary, Sunday, May 26, 2019. The European Parliament election is held by member countries of the European Union (EU) from 23 to 26 May 2019. (Sandor Ujvari/MTI...  (Associated Press)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on elections for the European Parliament (all times local):

3 p.m.

The leader of Italy's right-wing League Party, Matteo Salvini, calculates that populist and nationalist parties will control at least 150 seats in the new 751-seat European Parliament.

Votes were still coming in early Monday, but Salvini told RAI state television that his League, Marine Le Pen's National Rally in France and Nigel Farage's Brexit party in Britain together should control 90 seats. He says other populist parties in the Europe of Nations and Freedom Group could bring that number to 150.

Salvini says that doesn't count other like-minded parties, like Hungarian President Viktor Orban's Fidesz, which belongs to another conservative parliamentary group. Salvini says the election sends a strong signal to traditional parties that "the European people are asking for a different Europe."

Projections showed Salvini's League gaining in strength in Italy to nearly 34% of the vote, a huge boost over the formerly regional party's 6% support in 2014. In another important result, Italy's Democratic Party rebounded to 22.5% of the vote after a miserable showing in last year's national election, eclipsing the League's coalition partner, the populist 5-Star Movement, which got only 17.7%.

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2:45 a.m.

The European Parliament is projecting that the lion's share of Britain's seats will go to the Brexit Party — 29 seats for the 31% of the vote that Nigel Farage's newly founded party was forecast to win.

The projection released early Monday showed British voters driven to extremes, with the No. 2 winners being the strongly pro-European Liberal Democrats. Coming in distant fifth were the ruling Conservatives.

Britain's electorate is divided over the delayed departure from the European Union, but the vote tallied Monday showed a universal anger at the two long-dominant parties, the Conservatives and Labour, who have led the U.K. into Brexit gridlock.

For the U.K. vote, turnout was a dismal 37%, up just over 1 percentage point from the 2014 EU election and well below the EU average this year of over 50.9%.

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2:25 a.m.

Many Romanians living abroad had to wait in long lines for hours to cast their European Parliament votes in many European cities.

Numerous calls for polling stations to remain open longer than the local deadline of 9 p.m. (1900 GMT) were denied by election and government authorities, even though President Klaus Iohannis appealed for an extension.

Iohannis said after polls closed that the ruling Social Democrat Party, or PSD, "should be ashamed of how they handled this." Official election results are expected Monday, but updated exit polls showed the PSD and the opposition National Liberal Party are tied for the lead in the European ballot with 25.7% of the vote.

Romanians cast ballots Sunday for the European Parliament election as well in two questions of a referendum called by Iohannis to pressure the governing coalition into abandoning efforts to water down anti-corruption laws and to ban amnesties and pardons for those convicted of corruption.

Voter turnout was high enough to ensure the validity of the non-binding referendum, but a result is not expected until Monday.

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2:15 a.m. Monday

Updated election results released by the Croatian election authorities say the ruling conservatives and an opposition center-left party have won an equal number of seats in the future European Parliament.

With 99.8% percent of the ballots counted, the results early Monday showed the Croatian Democratic Union winning 22.7% of the vote, followed by the center-left Social Democratic Party with 18.7%, or 4 seats each.

Initially, the ruling HDZ party was projected to win 5 seats.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said the party missed about 1,000 votes for the fifth seat and declared that "tomorrow, we will see what we could have done better."

A Croatian far-right coalition is third with 8.5%, or one seat. The fourth is an independent list with 7.8% support.

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2:05 a.m.

Anti-EU campaigner Nigel Farage has been re-elected to the European Parliament from Britain, and says the strong showing for his Brexit Party is a "massive message" for the country's long-dominant Conservative and Labour parties.

Farage's newly founded anti-EU party is on course to take about a third of the vote and the biggest share of seats in U.K. voting for the legislature, as voters express anger at Britain's Brexit gridlock.

But there has also been a big surge for the Liberal Democrats and the Green party, which are both strongly pro-EU. The election result looks only to have deepened Britain's divisions over Brexit, and severely weakened both the Conservatives and Labour.

Farage warned that if Britain does not leave the EU on Oct. 31 as planned, "the scores you have seen for the Brexit Party today will be repeated in a general election."

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1:50 a.m.

Italy's hard-line interior minister, Matteo Salvini, says the European parliamentary vote shows "that the rules are changing in Europe."

Salvini told supporters at party headquarters in Milan early Monday that the results of Europe's four-day vote show that "a new Europe is born. I will say to those who have sunk the European dream, transforming it into a nightmare, that I am proud that the League participated in this new rebirth of a sunken Europe."

Voter projections showed the League won 33% of the vote in Italy, up from just 6% at the last European vote in 2014 and at least 10 percentage points ahead of the Democratic Party in second place. The League's coalition partners, the 5-Star Movement, suffered a blow, finishing third with just 19% of the vote.

Salvini held a cross as he spoke, and at one point kissed it and looked upward, saying: "I thank whoever is up there, who is not helping Matteo Salvini and the League, who is helping Italy and Europe, to protect hope, pride, roots, work, security." Salvini has faced criticism from Italy's Catholic establishment for brandishing a rosary at rallies.

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1:40 a.m.

The two women who shook up Spanish politics by becoming the mayors of Madrid and Barcelona supported by an upstart far-left party in 2015 have both lost in local elections.

Manuela Carmena, a 75-year-old former judge, won the most votes in Madrid's local election but will likely be disposed by the combined power of three right-wing parties that can cobble together a majority in the town hall.

Ada Colau, a former housing activist, is also in danger of losing power in Barcelona after she came in second to a party in favor of Catalonia's secession from the rest of Spain.

Their losses come amid a steep decline in support for the anti-austerity Podemos (We Can) party and similar far-left parties since their rise four years ago. Much of those votes have gone to the mainstream Socialists.

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1:30 a.m.

Spain's caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says his victorious Socialists will push for a Europe focused on social welfare and against austerity measures after winning the European elections.

With 98% of the votes counted late Sunday, the Socialists won 20 of the 54 seats allocated to Spain in the European Parliament.

Sanchez says Spain is going to be the leading delegation" of Socialists on the European stage. He calls that a source of enormous pride and an enormous opportunity for us but also an enormous responsibility."

Caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, president of European Parliament from 2004-09, is among the Socialist lawmakers going to Strasbourg.

Sánchez can now focus on trying to form a new government following the victory of his Socialists in the April 28 national election.

The turnout in Spain on Sunday was up to 64.3% from 45.8% in 2014.

1:05 a.m.

The leaders of the two largest mainstream parties in the European Parliament have ruled out working with far-right nationalists who made gains in the continent's four-day vote and appealed for cooperation among pro-European parties.

Manfred Weber, leader of the center-right EPP group, said Sunday night that "from now on, those who want to have a strong European union have to join forces."

Weber says his group will not cooperate "with any party that doesn't believe in the future of the European Union."

Frans Timmermans, the Socialist and Democrats leader who is Weber's chief rival for the top job at the EU's executive commission, says he wants to work together with progressive parties "to try and build a program that addresses the aspirations, the dreams, and also sometimes the fears of our fellow Europeans."

The EEP group is forecast to win 178 seats and the S&D group will have 152 seats in the 751-seat parliament, according to EU projections.

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1 a.m.

Election authorities in Slovenia say an anti-immigrant party has won most votes in the European election but less than allied moderate groups together.

The State Election Commission said Sunday that near-complete results showed that the Slovenian Democratic Party of former Prime Minister Janez Jansa — an ally of Hungary's hard-line Prime Minister Viktor Orban — has won 26.5% of the vote.

The Social Democrats are second with 18.6% while Prime Minister Marjan Sarec's party won 15.6%. The two parties are part of Slovenia's current coalition government.

The right-wing Slovenian Democratic Party also won most votes at last year's parliamentary election in Slovenia but remained out of the government after moderate groups joined forces to form a coalition.

The opposition conservative New Slovenia party is fourth in the EU vote with 11.1%.

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12:50 a.m.

Hungary's prime minister says the European Parliament election shows that "people in Hungary believe change is needed in Brussels."

Viktor Orban, who campaigned on an anti-migration platform, told supporters Sunday night that his Fidesz party, which won 13 of Hungary's 21 seats in the EU legislature, "will cooperate with everyone who wants to stop immigration."

But Orban did not directly address possibly joining up at the EU level with like-minded far-right leaders such as Italy's Matteo Salvini.

Fidesz's membership in the European People's Party, which may remain the largest group in the European Parliament, has been suspended because of concerns about democracy in Hungary. Orban says he does not want to belong to a political group whose policies he can't influence.

Orban said: "We showed today that Hungary is strong ... because Hungarians are united."

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12:40 a.m.

Croatian election authorities have confirmed that the ruling conservatives are leading the European Parliament election in Croatia, EU's newest member state.

The near-complete preliminary results on Sunday showed that the Croatian Democratic Union won a little over 23.2% of the vote, followed by the center-left Social Democratic Party with around 18.3%.

A far-right coalition is third with 8.2%, or one seat in the future European parliament. Three more groups won from 5.6%-7.6%.

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12:30 a.m.

French official results confirm the far-right National Rally's victory over French President Emmanuel Macron's centrist party in the European Parliament election.

France's Interior Ministry published results based on 81% of the votes counted, placing Marine Le Pen's party at 24.9% support and Macron's party at 21.5%. Some votes in France's biggest cities, which tend to benefit Macron more, remain to be counted.

The National Rally's result appears close to its score at the previous 2014 European elections.

The green party EELV came in third position with 12.8% support.

France's traditional parties, which were eviscerated by Marcon's presidential win in 2017, were still far behind in Sunday's vote, getting 8.3% for The Republicans conservative party to 6% for the Socialist party.

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12:25 a.m.

Provisional results from Austria are confirming a big win for Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's center-right party, days after a scandal involving the far-right Freedom Party brought down his governing coalition.

Election officials said that Kurz's People's Party won 35.4% of the vote in Sunday's European Parliament election. It was followed by the center-left Social Democrats with 23.6% and the Freedom Party with 18.1%. The Freedom Party's tally in Austria's 2017 national election, in which it also finished third, was a much stronger 26%.

The Greens took 13% of the vote and the liberal NEOS party 8.1%. The tally excludes postal votes, but on that basis Kurz's party would take seven seats, the Social Democrats five, the Freedom Party three, the Greens two and NEOS one.

The vote for European Parliament is the first test in Austria ahead of a national election in September.

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12:20 a.m.

The European Parliament spokesman says turnout over all of the bloc's 28 countries was a 20-year high of 50.5% for Sunday's vote.

Jaume Duch Guillot says the turnout was 8 percentage points higher than the last Europe-wide vote for the parliament in 2014. He said the figures, which include voting from Britain, which aims to leave the bloc, "shows that European citizens realize that the European Union is part of their everyday reality and future."

With final results still trickling in early Monday, it appeared that the parliament's two long-time centrist political groups saw their support shrink at the expense of the anti-immigration far-right and pro-environment Greens. That was according to seat projections for the 751-seat parliament that Guillot read aloud from the stage in the parliament building in Brussels.

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12:10 a.m.

Three Catalan separatists — one in jail and two more fugitives from Spanish justice — have won European Parliament seats.

Former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont, his ex-No. 2 Oriol Junqueras and former Catalan Cabinet member Toni Comín all won seats for separatist parties in Sunday's EU vote. That's according to provisional results released by Spain's Interior Ministry with 85% of the votes counted.

Junqueras is in jail in Madrid while on trial on charges that include rebellion for his part in Catalonia's attempt to secede from the rest of Spain in 2017. Puigdemont and Comín are wanted in Spain after they fled to Belgium following Catalonia's failed secession bid.

The three were allowed to run as candidates, but will face legal hurdles to actually take possession of their European Parliament seats.

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12 midnight

A new pro-EU coalition linked to President-elect Zuzana Caputova has won the European Parliament election in Slovakia while a far-right party gained seats in the EU legislature for the first time.

According to the final results released by the Slovak Statistics Office, the coalition Progressive Slovakia/Together received 20.1 % of the vote, gaining four seats in the European legislature.

Caputova was Progressive Slovakia deputy chairman before winning the March presidential election.

People's Party Our Slovakia, a far-right party, finished third with 12.1 %, winning two seats.

But Slovakia's local ally of France's far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen didn't win a seat.

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11:50 p.m.

A centrist party in the Czech Republic led by populist Prime Minister Andrej Babis won the most votes in the European Parliament election despite the fact that Babis is facing fraud charges involving the use of EU funds.

The Czech Statistics office says his ANO (YES) group has won 21.2% percent of the Sunday vote or six seats — two more than in 2014 —of the 21 seats at stake in the Czech ballot.

Babis wants his country to remain in the bloc but is calling for EU reforms.

The Czech Republic's most ardent anti-EU group, the Freedom and Direct Democracy party, captured its first seats — two of them — in the EU legislature after finishing fifth with 9.1%. The party is the Czech ally of France's far-right National Rally party led Marine Le Pen.

The moderate euroskeptic Civic Democratic Party was second in the vote, winning four seats, while two pro-European parties, Pirate party and conservative TOP 09, won three seats each.

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11:40 p.m.

The first official British results in the European Parliament election bear out predictions of victory for the Brexit Party led by anti-EU campaigner Nigel Farage.

The tally from northeast England, the first of the U.K.'s 12 regions to report, gives the single-issue party, launched just weeks ago, 39% of the vote.

The left-of-center Labour Party, which has traditionally dominated the region, got 19% of the vote, down sharply from 2014.

The pro-EU Liberal Democrats, campaigning to stop Brexit, more than doubled their share to 17% of the vote, while and the governing Conservatives got just 7%, one point behind the Greens.

Many U.K. voters are apparently using the election to protest at Britain's Brexit deadlock.

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11:35 p.m.

Hungary's National Election Office says Prime Minister Viktor Orban's ruling Fidesz party has won 13 of Hungary's 21 seats in the EU parliament, one seat more than in the 2014 vote.

With 99.9% of the votes counted Sunday evening, former Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany's Democratic Coalition has won four seats and the liberal Momentum Movement has captured two seats.

Both the left-wing/green coalition of the Socialist and Dialogue parties, and the right-wing Jobbik party got one seat each, worse than expected.

Voter turnout was above 43%, the highest for an EU parliament election in Hungary, which first took part in the balloting in 2004.

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11:25 p.m.

Spain's Socialists have won the European elections ahead of the conservative Popular Party, according to provisional results released by Spain's Interior Ministry.

With 85% of the votes counted, the Socialists will win 32.9% of the vote and 20 seats of the 54 that Spain is allocated in the European Parliament. The conservative Popular Party, which suffered major losses in the April 28 national election, has won 12 seats, down from 16 seats in 2014.

The upstart far-right Vox party is the fifth most popular in Spain, earning three seats, its first time in the European Parliament.

The poor showing for the Popular Party comes after it was crushed in last month's national election. The party has been hurt by corruption allegations and convictions.

The victory will strengthen Sánchez as he tries to form a coalition government.

The Socialists are also hoping to do well in local and regional elections in Spain on Sunday.

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11:10 p.m.

Exit polls indicate the right-wing populist League party led by Italy's hard-line interior minister, Matteo Salvini, posted huge gains in this year's European parliamentary election to become Italy's largest party.

The League won between 27% and 31% of the vote, up from 6.2% five years ago. Salvini has been working to expand an alliance of right-wing populist parties in a bid to upend European politics and slow down, if not turn around, the drive toward greater European integration.

In another significant result, the League's government coalition partner, the populist 5-Star Movement, is Italy's third party, behind the Democratic Party, which lost badly in last year's national election.

If the 5-Star Movement's finish behind the Democratic Party is confirmed in the final result, it could have implications for Italy's governing coalition.

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10:55 p.m.

Projected results from the European Parliament in Portugal predict a victory for the Socialists of Prime Minister António Costa.

The Socialists are projected to win with nearly 32.5% of the vote, slightly down from 2014 when it took 34%.

The center-right opposition is set to take 22.9%, while the leftist Bloco de Esquerda is projected to get nearly 10.3% of the vote.

Costa will face a national election in Portugal in October.

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10:40 p.m.

Voters in ethnically divided Cyprus have elected a Turkish Cypriot to the European Parliament for the first time since the island nation joined the 28-member bloc in 2004.

Niyazi Kizilyurek, who teaches at the University of Cyprus' Turkish and Middle Eastern Studies Department, ran for the communist-rooted AKEL party that was the runner-up in Sunday's European parliament election behind the conservative Democratic Rally party.

Kizilyurek told private TV station Sigma that he'll represent Cyprus and its European citizens, irrespective of ethnic origin.

AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou said the election of Kizilyurek, 60, sends a strong message to other EU nations that Cypriots want an end to their country's division and want more EU help in peace efforts.

Turnout was at 42.8%.

Despite earlier opinion polls, far-right party ELAM didn't manage to gain one of Cyprus' six allotted seats at the European Parliament, even though it doubled its support.

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10:15 p.m.

The pro-business ALDE group said Sunday's voting projections make it clear that the European Parliament will have a "new balance of power" and the long-dominant European People's Party and Socialists groups will have to share much more power.

Guy Verhofstadt said his group, boosted by the addition of French President Macron's LREM party, will be an essential powerbroker in the negotiations to get a working majority in the legislature and back a candidate to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as Commission President.

Verhofstadt says the two mainstream parties "will no longer have a majority and it means no solid pro-EU majority is possible" without his ALDE group and others pro-EU parties like the Greens.

Latest projections show the EPP getting 173 seats, down from 217, and the Socialist S&D with 147, down from 186. Together they hold 320 seats in the 751-seat legislature.

Verhofstadt's group is projected to get 102 seats and the Greens 71.

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10 p.m.

An exit poll shows a huge setback in the European Parliament election for Romania's ruling coalition, led by the Social Democratic Party.

Data released Sunday by pollsters Avangarde and CURS show the Social Democrats, or PSD, getting a 25.8% of the votes, enough only to tie the opposition National Liberal Party, or PNL.

The PSD's junior coalition partner, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, may get less than the mandatory 5% of votes needed to win a seat in the EU legislature.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis says the Social Democrats have "failed," adding that the only possible option was that their government "has to go." Critics say the government tolerates corruption.

Prime Minister Viorica Dancila said she wouldn't step down, declaring that "Romanians trust the current government. These were EU, not national, elections."

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9:50 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron's party is pledging to combat nationalists at the European Parliament and block them from weakening France.

The lead candidate of Macron's centrist party, Nathalie Loiseau, urged all pro-European forces "to unite to defend the interests of the Europeans" and not let the European Union fall into the hands of "those who want to unbuild it."

In France, polling agency estimates show that Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally party is expected to beat Macron's centrist party in the European election.

Loiseau said her party, associated with the pro-market ALDE alliance in a new centrist group, will have a key role as they will represent the third strongest force at the European Parliament.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said he will continue to implement Macron's policies and planned reforms.

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9:40 p.m.

In Greece, New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the protected winner of Sunday's European election, has just called on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to resign.

Tsipras, who is not obliged to call an early election until his term expires in October, is at the Syriza party headquarters. Top Syriza officials say an early election is not on the cards.

The Interior Ministry's pollster estimates that conservative opposition New Democracy will get 32.8%, while the ruling left-wing Syriza party will get 24%.

In other estimates, the Socialists got 7.8%, the Communist Party saw 5.6%, the far-right Golden Dawn saw 4.8% and the nationalist Greek Solution was projected at 4.1%. The estimate is based on results from 10% of polling stations.

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9:20 p.m.

Green leaders in the European Parliament are hailing a "green wave" that has spread throughout Europe after early projections showed the environmentalist movement is likely to make significant gains.

Early projections Sunday suggest the Greens will secure 71 seats in the 751-seat parliament, up from 52 seats five years ago. The Greens appear to have done well in France, Germany and Ireland.

The Greens co-leader in the assembly, Ska Keller, says "the green wave has really spread all over Europe and for us that is a fantastic result."

Fellow Greens leader Philippe Lamberts says the party cannot be avoided as groups begin negotiations in coming days to form alliances in the parliament to counter the likely rise of anti-EU parties.

Lamberts says "to forge a stable European Union, the Greens are indispensable."

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9:15 p.m.

An exit poll in Poland shows the nationalist conservative ruling Law and Justice party as the biggest vote-getter in the European Parliament election, with 42.6% of the vote.

If the projection is confirmed by the official results, it would put the party in a strong position ahead of Poland's national parliamentary election in the fall.

The exit poll by the Ipsos agency shows the ruling party's main rival, the European Coalition, running in second place with 39.1%. The coalition is led by the centrist Civic Platform party and includes several other parties.

The exit poll gave Spring, a new center-left party that backs fighting climate change, 6.6% support.

A far-right alliance formed to stand in the European election, Confederation, had 6.6% of the vote according to the exit poll.

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9 p.m.

The ruling, pro-EU conservatives are projected to win the most votes in the European election in Croatia, the European Union's newest member.

An exit poll carried by the public broadcaster HRT said Sunday that the Croatian Democratic Union will win some 23% of the ballot, followed by the center-left Social Democratic Party with around 17%.

HRT says the exit polls have been conducted by the Ipsos polling agency. Partial official results are expected later in the evening.

The exit polls also indicated that a far-right coalition could win 6.6% of the ballot, or one of the 12 EU seats for Croatia. Local media say the biggest surprise is the third position for an independent list with some 8% of the votes.

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8:50 p.m.

First European Parliament projections suggest that mainstream parties have lost ground in the EU elections, with the Greens and far-right and populist parties set to pick up seats.

The projections, based on estimates in 11 EU member countries and voting intentions in 17 others, show that the center-right European People's Party would remain the biggest group with 173 seats, down from 217 in 2014.

The center-left Socialists would lose 40 seats, dropping to 147.

The left-wing Greens seem set to win 71 seats, up from 52 in 2014.

The European of Nations and Freedom group, which combines populist and far-right parties in countries like France and Italy, looks like it will secure 57 seats, up 20 from five years ago.

Despite the losses for mainstream parties, staunchly pro-EU parties are slated to win 493 of the 751 seats in Parliament.

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8:40 p.m.

French far-right, nationalist leader Marine Le Pen is declaring victory in the European Parliament election over pro-EU French President Emmanuel Macron.

French polling agencies are projecting that Le Pen's National Rally will come first in France's voting Sunday, followed by Macron's centrist Republic on the Move party.

Le Pen said the expected result "confirms the new nationalist-globalist division" in France and beyond.

She immediately expressed hope the election could foreshadow her party's victory in France's 2022 presidential election. Le Pen was beaten handily by Macron in France's 2017 presidential vote.

She called on Macron to dissolve the French parliament.

Macron says the National Rally represents the "leprosy" of nationalism that is eating the EU from within. For Le Pen, the race is a battle to preserve European civilization from immigration and globalization.

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8:30 p.m.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says he is "invigorated" by a projection showing a big win for his center-right party after a week in which his governing coalition collapsed.

The projection for ORF public television, the Austria Press Agency and private broadcaster ATV pointed to Kurz's center-right People's Party finishing well ahead of the center-left Social Democrats in the European Parliament vote. It also shows Kurz's former coalition partner, the far-right Freedom Party, a distant third.

A scandal surrounding the Freedom Party's now-departed leader brought down the coalition and prompted Kurz to call for an early national election in September.

Kurz still may be unseated by an opposition no-confidence vote in parliament on Monday. But he told supporters on Sunday: "Whatever is going to happen tomorrow and in the following days we are defying the rain, we are defying everything else that is going to come our way. We emerge invigorated."

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8:15 p.m.

French polling agency estimates show that Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally party is expected to beat French President Emmanuel Macron's party in the European elections.

The populist, anti-immigrant National Rally is estimated to win 23% to 24% of the vote, compared to 21.9% to 22.5% for Macron's centrist, pro-European party. That's according to estimates by the Ifop and Ipsos polling agencies.

The green party EELV is estimated at 12.8% to 13%, a sharp rise compared to previous European elections.

The French conservative party, The Republicans, is expected to be in fourth position with about 8% support while far-left France Insoumise ("Rebel France") and the Socialist party are both estimated to capture between 6% and 7% support.

In France, polling agencies including Ifop and Ipsos are forecasting the nationwide vote result based on projections from the actual vote count in select constituencies.

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8:05 p.m.

The European Parliament spokesman says turnout for this year's pivotal election is nearing 51% for 27 nations, according to preliminary figures.

Jaume Duch Guillot says the figure, which excludes Britain, is the highest in at least 20 years and reverses years of steady decline. U.K. figures are expected later Sunday evening, as final tallies roll in for an election that both centrist parties and the far-right have portrayed as a referendum on sovereignty and the European Union.

Four days of voting will end Sunday, and 426 million people across 28 nations were eligible to vote for the makeup of the European Parliament. In the case of Britain, voters are electing legislators who will lose their jobs when Brexit is finalized.

It is, Guillot said, "very significant increase in turnout for the very first time since the first European elections took place in 1979."

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8 p.m.

In Greece, an updated exit poll shows the conservative opposition New Democracy party winning between 32.5% to 34.5% of Sunday's vote for the European Parliament.

Greece's governing left-wing Syriza is projected to get between 24% and 26%. The socialists of Movement for Change are expected to see between 7.2% to 8.2% support; the Communists between 5% to 6%; while the extreme-right Golden Dawn and the nationalist Greek Solution both are projected to get 4% to 5% support.

The threshold to elect one of Greece's 21 European lawmakers is 3%. The exit poll was conducted jointly by five polling firms.

Greece is also voting for regional and local councils Sunday.

Voters from 21 EU nations went to the polls Sunday in the final day of a crucial European Parliament election.

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7:45 p.m.

The Greens are celebrating projected strong gains in Germany in the European Parliament elections and a good showing in Ireland.

An exit poll published by the European Parliament says that in Germany, the Greens finished second with 22% support, double their result five years ago. The poll shows that in Ireland the Green Party was in a three-way tie for second place behind the governing Fine Gael party.

Ska Keller of the European Greens hailed the results Sunday evening. She says, "it is a great celebration but it's also a great responsibility. It is a great task to now put into action those things that people asked us to do: Climate protection, social justice in Europe and fighting for civil liberties all over."

The strong showings for the Greens follow protests by students and activists across Europe calling for faster action to tackle climate change.

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7:35 p.m.

In Bulgaria, the ruling center-right GERB party is projected to come in first in the European election in that nation, according to an exit poll jointly conducted by two Bulgarian polling firms.

The poll by Alpha Research and Gallup International says GERB is projected to win 30% to 33% of the vote, compared to 23% to 25% for the opposition Socialist party.

The liberal Movement for Rights and Freedoms party is projected to win 13%, while a nationalist formation, the VMRO, and the right-wing Democratic Bulgaria party are projected to get between 6% and 8% each.

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev says "we need a united and strong Europe" based on solidarity.

Voters from 21 EU nations went to the polls Sunday in the final day of a crucial European Parliament election that could see gains by nationalists and far-right movements. The EU's other seven nations voted earlier this week but results on all the voting will not be released until after all polls close Sunday night.

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7:08 p.m.

The center-right candidate to lead the European Union Executive's Commission is promising to bring "stability" to the European Union over the next few years and predicts pro-EU forces will lead the next parliament.

Manfred Weber, the candidate of the European People's Party, said in Berlin that Sunday's European Parliament elections appear to have weakened the political center. He says it's "most necessary for the forces that believe in this Europe, that want to lead this Europe to a good future, that have ambitions for this Europe, ... (to) work together."

He said those forces have to have a "clear division" from other political groups who oppose Europe on both the right and the left.

Weber said the EPP will be "hopefully the strongest group" in the new European parliament. He said "we promised stability, and (we) will guarantee this stability in the coming years."

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6:35 p.m.

Spain's Interior Ministry says turnout for the European elections at 6 p.m. (1600 GMT) is up to 49.3% from nearly 34.1% in 2014.

Spain is also holding local and some regional elections Sunday, including the highly watched races for the mayor of Madrid and Barcelona. The 2014 European elections were held alone.

Still, turnout was down from Spain's April 28 national election, when it was nearly 60.8% at 1600 GMT.

In Barcelona, a Catalan separatist candidate is trying to oust its incumbent far-left mayor, who says she does not support secession but believes that Catalans should vote on the question.

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6:15 p.m.

In Greece, the conservative opposition New Democracy party is projected to win the European election, according to an exit poll jointly conducted by five Greek polling firms.

New Democracy is projected to win 32% to 36% of the vote, compared to 25% to 29% for the ruling left-wing Syriza.

The socialist Movement for Change is projected to win 7% to 9%, while the extreme right Golden Dawn and the Communist party are expected to get between 5% and 7% each.

Two more parties, far-right nationalist Greek Solution and Diem25, the Greek section of former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis' European movement, have a chance to exceed the 3% threshold required for sending a representative to the European Parliament.

The poll, with 7,000 respondents, was conducted until 5 p.m. (1400 GMT), two hours before voting ended, and will be updated.

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6:05 p.m.

An exit poll shows Germany's governing parties losing significant ground in the European Parliament election, with big gains for the Greens party and a much smaller increase for the far-right.

The ARD television exit poll put support for Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Union bloc at 28% and showed their coalition partners in Berlin, the center-left Social Democrats, dropping to a dismal 15.5%. Five years ago, those parties took 35.4% and 27.3% respectively of the vote.

It showed the Greens easily taking second place with 22% — double their result five years ago. The far-right Alternative for Germany was seen with 10.5% support, better than its showing in 2014 but less than it scored in Germany's last national election in 2017.

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5:50 p.m.

France's Interior Ministry says turnout for the European Parliament election was up in the country compared to previous vote.

In France, turnout was over 43% at 5 p.m. (1500GMT), compared with 35% at the same time in 2014. Polls remain open until 8 p.m. in the country's big cities.

Several French poll institutes estimate that the final turnout may be over 50% at the end of the day, which would be a first in the country since 1994.

A similar rise in turnout has been observed in neighboring Spain and Germany.

In the whole European Union, turnout for this pan-European vote has trended downward since the first election in 1979. Turnout stood at less than 43% in the 2014 vote.

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5:35 p.m.

A projection for Austrian public television and the country's national news agency points to a big win for Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's center-right party in the European Parliament election, with the far-right Freedom Party finishing far behind in third place.

The projection was released after polls closed Sunday in Austria. It put support for Kurz's center-right People's Party at 34.5%, with the center-left Social Democrats at 23.5%, the Freedom Party at 17.5% and the Greens at 13.5% support.

It was based on 5,200 interviews conducted from Tuesday to Sunday.

The vote for the joint European Parliament is a the first test in Austria ahead of a national election in September that Kurz called a week ago after a scandal erupted surrounding the Freedom Party's leader. Heinz-Christian Strache quit as party leader and vice chancellor, and the governing coalition between the People's Party and the Freedom Party then collapsed.

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5:20 p.m.

Italy's anti-migrant hard-line Interior Minister Matteo Salvini says he feels a "change in the air" and that a win by his right-wing League party would "change everything in Europe."

Salvini's League is seeking to form an alliance of nationalist, populist parties to exert more power in the European Parliament over the affairs of the European Union. He's campaigned relentlessly throughout Italy and has become the face of Europe's far-right by speaking out against migrants and the influence of Muslims in Europe.

The League party, once just a regional power in northern Italy, is gaining strength throughout the country. It's the junior partner in a coalition government with the populist 5-Star Movement, but the coalition is on rocky ground. Salvini may be tempted to end the partnership to seek a new election in Italy if his electoral gains on the European front are significant.

But on Sunday, he voted in the European election and dismissed speculation about seeking new elections.

He told reporters "I'm interested in winning in Italy to change Europe," according to the Italian news agency ANSA.

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4 p.m.

Turnout appears to be up in several of the European Union's largest countries for the continentwide battle for influence at the European Parliament.

Turnout was up slightly in Spain, France and Germany by mid-afternoon.

In Spain, turnout was up to 35% compared to 24% at the same time in the last European elections in 2014. Spain is also holding municipal and some regional elections —including for mayor of Madrid and Barcelona— while in 2014 the European elections were separate.

In Germany, the federal election authority said that 29% of registered voters had cast ballots by 2 p.m., four hours before polls closed. That's up from 26% at the same time in 2014. The figure doesn't include postal votes.

And in France, turnout was at 19% at noon, compared with 16% at the same time in 2014.

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3:10 p.m.

The leader of Spain's upstart far-right Vox party, Santiago Abascal, asked Spaniards to make "their voice heard" after he cast his ballot in Madrid.

"We come to these elections calling for participation from all Spaniards in accordance to their convictions and principles," Abascal said. "We want to tell them that it is important that each Spaniard has their voice in the municipal and regional institutions, also in the European institutions as, often, this is not seen with much interest by citizens."

Vox erupted into the Spanish political scene in December when it won its first seats in the regional legislature for the Andalusia region. It then won 10% of the vote in national elections on April 28 to enter the Spanish Parliament.

Founded in 2013, Vox failed to win a seat in 2014 European elections, its first electoral test.

Unlike other European far-right parties, Vox is not anti-European Union despite its ultranationalist ideology.

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2:55 p.m.

Anti-EU and pro-EU parties are both hoping to make gains in a Brexit-dominated election for British seats in the European Parliament, while the governing Conservative Party is bracing for one of its worst-ever performances.

Daniel Hannan, a Conservative Member of the European Parliament, said he feared the party was facing "total wipeout" and would fail to gain any of Britain's 73 seats.

The Conservatives look likely to be punished for failing to take the country out of the EU as promised. Opinion polls suggest the newly founded Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage is set to take the biggest share of votes. There could also be a surge for the centrist Liberal Democrats, who want to stop Brexit.

In the last EU election in 2014, Farage's former UKIP party won 27% of the vote, helping to build momentum in the push to get Britain out of the EU.

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2:35 p.m.

Spaniards in the restive northeastern region of Catalonia are voting in European elections that include two high-profile separatist leaders who are running from jail and self-imposed exile.

Former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont and his ex-No. 2 Oriol Junqueras are both running on competing tickets of separatist parties for the European Parliament.

Junqueras is in jail in Madrid while on trial on charges that include rebellion for his part in Catalonia's attempt to secede from the rest of Spain in 2017. Puigdemont is wanted in Spain and fled to Belgium.

Both have been allowed to run as candidates, but would face legal hurdles to actually become European Parliament members if elected.

Polls and recent election results show that the 7.5 million residents of the wealthy Catalonia region are roughly split by the secession issue. It is highly unpopular in the rest of Spain.

"I think a lot is at stake for Catalonia in the European elections," Manuel Guajardo, a 57-year-old businessman, said after voting in Barcelona. "It will be the definition of a people, to take a path or another path, and these elections will mark this."

Barcelona is also holding municipal elections, where a separatist candidate is trying to oust its incumbent far-left mayor, who says she does not support secession but believes that Catalans should vote on the question.

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12:50 p.m.

In Castelbuono, a Medieval mountain town in Sicily's province of Palermo, a steady but sluggish stream of voters is showing up to cast ballots.

Many of the town's residents are backing the 5-Star Movement, a populist party now in a coalition government with the anti-migrant League party.

One of these is Vincenzo Messineo, a 32-year-old laborer who's concerned about youth unemployment and the influx of migrants.

"We don't want them all here," he said. "Europe is united so why can't they be divided among other countries too?"

For Anna Maria Ippolito, a 62-year-old 5-Star Movement supporter, financial inequality is a top concern.

"Six percent of the Italian population has all the wealth," she said. "It's not at all right. Paying the taxes that we do now just lets the rich get richer and the poor poorer."

On Europe, she thinks it's time to rein in the big guns. "Up to now, it's all been about Germany and France," she said. "They're the ones dragging us into this European disaster."

Migrants are on the mind of Silvia Bonomo, too, but she feels Europe needs to "open itself up" and do more to welcome people fleeing war and hardships. The 62-year-old middle-school teacher voted for the center-left Democratic Party.

"They wouldn't be coming if they didn't have a reason to," she said. "Migrants are seen as stealing jobs, which they are not. They're seen as criminals, which they are not. They are just like us."

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12:30 p.m.

People's Party Our Slovakia, a far right party that has 14 seats in Slovakia's parliament is expected to win seats in the European legislature for the first time.

The party openly admires the Nazi puppet state that the country was during World War II. Party members use Nazi salutes, blame Roma for crime, consider NATO a terror group and want the country out of the alliance and of the European Union.

The party received a boost in April after Slovakia's Supreme Court dismissed a request by the country's prosecutor general to ban it as an extremist group whose activities violate the Constitution.

Turnout in Slovakia at the previous vote in 2014 was 13%, the lowest in all EU countries.

The polls favor the leftist Smer-Social Democracy party, the senior member of the current coalition government, to top the voting with about 20%. Slovakia has 14 seats in the European Parliament.

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11:40 a.m.

The center-right German candidate to head the European Commission says he hopes voters will back a "Europe of stability" and a united and ambitious continent.

Manfred Weber, whose European People's Party group hopes to retain its status as the biggest in the European Parliament, said after voting in his native Bavaria Sunday: "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."

Ska Keller, a German Green who heads her group's European election slate, said in Berlin that "the European Union should lead the way in climate protection. We need social cohesion, we need to strengthen democracy in Europe and I hope that this will meet with much support."

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11:25 a.m.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says he hopes the European Parliament elections will strengthen the center rather than parties on the far right and left.

Kurz told reporters in Vienna Sunday that he hopes his center-right People's Party will keep first place in the race for seats in the EU legislature.

The vote has turned into a first test of support ahead of a national election in September following the collapse of Kurz's governing coalition a week ago in a scandal surrounding the now-departed leader of the far-right Freedom Party, which was his junior coalition partner.

Regardless of the result, Kurz faces a no-confidence vote brought by the opposition in parliament Monday. He said he expects the Freedom Party and the Social Democrats to back it, which would bring him down.

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10:55 a.m.

Spanish caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says that he hopes the outcome of Sunday's European and local elections will lead to more "political stability" for Spain as he starts his attempt to form a government.

Sánchez called on "all the political forces to open a horizon of political stability" after he voted early Sunday morning with his wife in Madrid.

He added that the elections are "to decide the future of progress and wellbeing for the entirety of our country and Europe."

Voter opinion polls point to a victory for Sánchez's Socialist Party in the European elections. Elections are also taking place for administrations in all Spain's cities, including deciding on a second term for the female mayors of Madrid and Barcelona, and 14 of its 19 regions.

Sánchez's Socialists won April 28 national elections in Spain, but fell short of winning an outright majority and will need to earn the support from rivals in Parliament to stay in power.

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10:40 a.m.

Hungary's prime minister says he hopes the European Parliament election will bring a shift toward political parties that want to stop migration.

Viktor Orban said Sunday after casting his vote at a school near his Budapest home that the issue of migration, which he believes is stoppable, "will reorganize the political spectrum in the European Union."

Orban, whose Fidesz party had its membership suspended in the center-right European People's Party, the largest political bloc in the EU parliament, because of concerns about Hungary's democracy, said Fidesz would want to stay in the EPP only if it can influence the group's future strategy.

Orban met recently with Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, but has not committed to joining the more radically nationalist alliance that Salvini has been forming.

Fidesz is expected to win up to 14 of Hungary's 21 seats in the EU parliament.

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8:05 a.m.

Belgians are heading to the polls in European Union, national and regional elections Sunday.

Polls opened at 8 a.m. (0700GMT) and the first estimates and exit polls were expected by 6 p.m. (1700GMT). In the national elections Belgians are looking to end months of political limbo after the biggest party in the governing coalition quit over Prime Minister Charles Michel's support for the U.N. migration pact.

Michel has steered a caretaker government doing only day-to-day business since December, but with the country's 8 million voters choosing from more than a dozen parties, chances are that it will prove difficult to quickly form a stable coalition.

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6 a.m.

Bulgarians are voting in the European Parliament elections after a series of scandals overshadowed the debate on key issues of the EU's future.

Voters on Sunday are casting ballots for their country's 17 seats in the 751-member European Parliament. The vote is seen as a test for the center-right party of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, which suffered a setback after senior officials were involved in corruption scandals.

Latest surveys show only three parties, belonging to mainstream European political groups, passing the election threshold — the ruling GERB party, the Socialist party, and the liberal MRF.

Projections suggest the nationalist and far-right vote will be split between several smaller parties, which could prevent them from capturing seats in the EU legislature.

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