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Core Pro-EU Parties Lose Ground As European Elections Shift Landscape


Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage (second from left) celebrates his party's strong showing in EU elections in the United Kingdom.

Elections to the European Parliament reflect an altered political landscape in the European Union, with the main center-right and center-left parties losing their dominance and environmentalists, the far right, and pro-business groups gaining strength.

Results coming in on May 27 indicated that the long-established "grand coalition" of the European People's Party (EPP) and the Socialists (S&D) will no longer have a majority.

But while far-right forces and nationalists recorded strong gains, powerful showings by Greens and liberals meant that parties committed to strengthening the EU retained about two-thirds of the seats -- 505 out of 751, according to a projection by the European Parliament.

With about 100 seats for the liberals and about 70 for the Greens, these groups will have a louder voice and and the traditionally dominant center-right and center-left parties a weaker one.

But the results may undermine the hopes of far-right politicians such as France's Marine Le Pen and Italy's Matteo Salvini of disrupting attempts to bring the EU closer together.

Green parties secured record gains across Europe's biggest countries -- including 20 percent of the vote in Germany, nearly double the Greens' support there during the last European elections in 2014.

'Green Wave'

Early results from across Europe suggested the Greens would secure a total of 69 seats, up from 52 in the 2014 European elections.

That puts Green party politicians in a strong position for possible coalition negotiations with the two pro-EU blocs that were unable to win an outright majority -- the center-right European People's Party (EPP) group that was on track to win 179 seats, and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) that was projected to take 152 seats.

France's leading Europe Ecology -- The Greens (EELV) candidate, Yannick Jadot, hailed the results as a "green wave in which we are the main players."

The leaders of the EPP and the S&D said early on May 27 that they've ruled out working with anti-EU parties. Both appealed for cooperation among pro-European parties.

Manfred Weber, leader of the center-right EPP group, said late on May 26 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."

On a nationwide basis in France, Le Pen's far-right National Rally (RN) party was set to finish in first place, dealing a symbolic setback to pro-EU President Emmanuel Macron after he'd campaigned on behalf of centrist politicians.

Exit polls showed Le Pen's party on track to win about 24.0 percent of the vote, with Macron's centrist alliance trailing with about 22.5 percent.

Le Pen called for Macron to dissolve the French parliament and call new elections as a result of the European vote, but that proposal was immediately rejected by the French government.

Highest Turnout In Years

Despite the RN party's triumphant declarations, final results could be a mixed picture for Le Pen.

Political analysts said her RN party may end up losing ground since the 2014 European elections when it finished first in France with 24.9 percent.

Allies of Macron called the result "respectable," and expressed satisfaction that the margin of defeat for France's centrists appeared to be small.

Macron's aides said the apparent victory for Le Pen's party would not have any bearing on Macron's policies.

Projections indicated that the party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and its center-left coalition partner also suffered losses.

Turnout across the EU, excluding Britain, was estimated at 51 percent, the highest in 20 years.

May 26 was the last of four days of voting for the bloc's next parliament.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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