Hungary’s prime minister has said he hopes the European Parliament election will bring a shift towards political parties that want to stop migration.
Viktor Orban said after casting his vote at a school near his Budapest home on Sunday that the issue of migration, which he believes is stoppable, “will reorganise the political spectrum in the European Union”.
Mr Orban, whose Fidesz party had its membership suspended in the centre-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.
Mr Orban recently met Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, but has not committed to joining the more radically nationalist alliance that Mr Salvini has been forming.
Fidesz is expected to win up to 14 of Hungary’s 21 seats in the EU parliament.
In Belgium, voters were heading to the polls in national and regional elections as well as the EU elections on Sunday.
Polls opened at 8am (0700GMT) and the first estimates and exit polls were expected by 6pm (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 UN migration pact.
Mr Michel has steered a caretaker government doing only day-to-day business since December, but with the country’s eight million voters choosing from more than a dozen parties, it is likely to prove difficult for him to quickly form a stable coalition.
Meanwhile, 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 were casting ballots for their country’s 17 seats in the 751-member European Parliament.
The vote is seen as a test for the centre-right party of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, which suffered a setback after senior officials were involved in corruption scandals.
Latest surveys showed 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.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he hoped the European Parliament elections would strengthen the centre rather than parties on the far right and left.
He told reporters in Vienna on Sunday that he hopes his centre-right People’s Party would retain 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 Mr 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, Mr Kurz faces a no-confidence vote brought by the opposition in parliament on Monday. He said he expects the Freedom Party and the Social Democrats to back it, which would bring him down.
Spanish caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he hoped the outcome of Sunday’s European and local elections will lead to more “political stability” for Spain as he attempts to form a government.
Mr Sanchez called on “all the political forces to open a horizon of political stability” after he voted with his wife in Madrid on Sunday morning.
He added that the elections are “to decide the future of progress and well-being for the entirety of our country and Europe”.
Voter opinion polls point to a victory for Mr Sanchez’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.
Mr Sanchez’s Socialists won national elections in Spain on April 28, but fell short of winning an outright majority and will need to earn the support from rivals in Parliament to stay in power.
The centre-right German candidate to head the European Commission said he hoped voters would 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 on 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”.
An exit poll showed Germany’s governing parties losing significant ground in the European Parliament election, with big gains for the Greens and a much smaller increase for the far-right.
The ARD television exit poll put support for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right Union bloc at 28% and showed their coalition partners in Berlin, the centre-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.
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 the country was during the Second World War. 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.
It 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 favour the leftist Smer-Social Democracy party, the senior member of the current coalition government, to top the voting with about 20%.
Meanwhile, a European Parliament spokesman said turnout for the pivotal election is nearing 51% for 27 nations, according to preliminary figures.
Jaume Duch Guillot said the figure, which excludes Britain, is the highest in at least 20 years and reverses years of steady decline.
Mr Guillot said it is a “very significant increase in turnout for the very first time since the first European elections took place in 1979”.
In France, far-right, nationalist leader Marine Le Pen declared victory in the election over pro-EU French President Emmanuel Macron.
French polling agencies are projecting that Ms Le Pen’s National Rally will come first in France, followed by Mr Macron’s centrist Republic on the Move party.
Ms 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. Ms Le Pen was beaten handily by Mr Macron in France’s 2017 presidential vote.