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European parliament elections: Liberals and progressives make gains in emerging Europe

Results from across the emerging Europe region suggest that with the notable exception of Hungary, where Fidesz won by a landslide, broadly pro-European parties have done far better than expected in elections for the European parliament.

With turnout across the continent at 51 per cent, the highest level for 40 years, early estimates produced by the European parliament suggest voters have returned a fragmented yet still clearly pro-EU majority, with traditional centre-ground parties losing seats to progressive parties, particularly the Greens. Eurosceptic and far-right parties made modest gains but will remain with roughly a quarter of MEPs.

In Poland, which sends the most MEPs to Brussels from the emerging Europe region, the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) came first with around 44 per cent of the vote. The European Coalition (KE), led by European Council President Donald Tusk and comprised of his Civic Platform and a group of leftist and rural politicians, came in second with 38 per cent. The newly-formed Spring party of Robert Biedroń, Poland’s first openly gay politician, took 6.7 per cent and finished third, comfortably meeting the parliamentary threshold. Turnout, although at a record high for EU elections in the country, still only stood at 43 per cent. The EU elections kicked off a series of polls in the country: a parliamentary one follows in the autumn before a presidential vote next year.

In Romania, the ruling PSD was beaten into second place, taking around 23 per cent of the vote. The Liberals won the election with around 28 per cent, while the progressive USR-Plus coalition – formed less than a year ago – came in third with 22 per cent. ALDE, a member of the ruling coalition, did not meet the five per cent parliamentary threshold. Turnout was almost 51 per cent, far higher than the last European election in 2014. There were long queues at polling stations in many Romanian towns and cities, as well at voting centres across the world as members of Romania’s large diaspora waited patiently to cast their ballots. Thousands were unable to do so. A referendum called by the country’s president Klaus Iohannis, which asked voters to approve two questions that will block the ruling PSD’s ability to tamper with the justice system, easily passed the 30 per cent threshold required to make it valid.

In Hungary the ruling right-wing Fidesz party has won easily with more than 52 per cent of the vote. The Democratic Coalition came a distant second with 16.26 per cent with the liberal Momentum movement in third with 9.92 per cent. It is the first time that Momentum has passed the five per cent threshold in any election and will offer the Hungarian opposition at least a modicum of comfort.

The Progressive Slovakia/Together coalition — led by newly-elected president Zuzana Čaputová — won the EU election in Slovakia with 20.1 per cent of the vote. The social-democratic SMER party finished second with 15.7 per cent ahead of the far-right People’s Party with 12 per cent. Turnout, while almost double that of 2014, was still very low at just over 20 per cent. Newly appointed leader of Progressive Slovakia, Michal Truban, thanked voters, saying that the elections showed that Slovakia wants change.

The GERB party of prime minister Boyko Borissov won the election in Bulgaria, with over 30 per cent of the vote. The Socialists came second with 25 per cent followed by Turkish-minority parties on 13 per cent and the nationalist VMRO on 7.8 per cent.

In Lithuania, European parliamentary elections were held concurrently with the second round of the presidential election, won by Gitanes Nauseda. Initial results showed the centre-right Homeland Union had won with 17.41 per cent of the vote, followed by the Social Democratic party with 16.90 per cent. The Farmers and Greens Union took third place with 13.93 per cent.

The ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won four seats out of a total of 11, with 22.72 per cent of the vote. It was followed by the Social Democratic party with 18.71 per cent and three seats. The right-wing Croatian Conservative party came third with 8.51 per cent. The Sovereignists, the independent slate led by former judge Mislav Kolakušić, Živi Zid and the seven-party Amsterdam Coalition each won one seat. “It is a relative victory”, said Croatia’s prime minister Andrej Plenković, the HDZ leader. “We have lost 1,000 votes”. Mr Plenković had expected five seats, for which the party wold have need and extra 1,000 votes.

The ruling centrist ANO party in the Czech Republic increased its number of MEPs from four to six after taking over 21 per cent of the vote, official results showed. The second biggest delegation from the country is a right-wing formation, the Civic Democratic party, which doubles its number of MEPs to four, having taken 14.5 per cent. The Pirate Party came in third with just under 14 per cent and is also likely to send four MEPs to Brussels.

In Estonia the liberal Reform party retained its first place with 26.2 per cent of the vote, official results showed. The Social Democratic party claimed the second place with 23.3 per cent of the vote, while the Centre party was in third with 14.4 per cent. The far-right People’s party – now controversially part of the country’s ruling coalition – came in fourth with 12.7 per cent.

The liberal-conservative New Unity party — aligned with the EPP — retained first place in Latvia, although its share of the vote dropped from more than 46 per cent in 2014 to around 26 per cent, provisional results show. It was followed by the Social Democratic party (17.5 per cent) and the right-wing populist National Alliance with 16.4 per cent.

The liberal Democratic Party (SDS) was victorious in Slovenia with 26.43 per cent. The centre-left Social Democrats came in second, with 18.64 per cent, while the list led by the country’s prime minister Marjan Šarec could only manage third with 15.58 per cent. SDS leader Janez Janša stressed that this result was made possible by an alliance of two parties in this election, one which could also serve as a model for future ballots.