(Brussels) The electoral marathon to renew the European Parliament confirmed on Sunday a surge of the extreme right, which is imposing itself before the parties of the leaders in power in Germany and France, and will try to influence the political course of the EU.

The vote, where more than 360 million voters were called to the polls to nominate 720 MEPs, took place since Thursday in a climate weighed down by a gloomy economic situation and the war in Ukraine, at a time when the EU is facing challenges strategic towards China and the United States.

On the eve of an evening where the national results will be announced, first exit polls confirm a clear progression of the nationalist and radical right, and a setback for Olaf Scholz and Emmanuel Macron, at the head of the first two powers of the EU.

In France, the National Rally led by Jordan Bardella dominated the vote with more than 31.5% of the votes, far ahead of President Macron’s Renaissance party (15.2%) and the social democratic left led by Raphaël Glucksmann (around by 14%), according to estimates from polling institutes. Participation is estimated at 52.5%, some 2.5 points higher than in 2019.

The RN would thus garner 31 of the 81 French MEPs.

Across the Rhine, where participation has increased significantly to around 65%, the German far-right AfD is credited in second place, with 16.5-16% of the vote, behind the conservative CDU-CSU (29.5-30%). ).

Despite the latest scandals that have hit its head of the list, the AfD is ahead of the Social Democrats (14%) in the ruling coalition, a bitter setback for Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Another party in government, the Greens fell to 12-12.5%, far from the 20.5% obtained in 2019.

In Austria, the far-right FPÖ party is credited with 27% of the vote, leading the poll. The Dutch, first to vote on Thursday, confirmed a rise in Geert Wilders’ far-right party – in second place behind the Social Democratic/Green coalition, according to estimates.

And in Italy, where voting began on Saturday, the post-fascist Fratelli d’Italia (FDI) party of head of government Giorgia Meloni could send 22 MEPs to the chamber, compared to six currently.

Ms. Meloni, who ran as head of the list in this election, reaffirmed her desire to “defend the borders against illegal immigration, protect the real economy, fight against unfair competition.”

If the rise of the far right in a number of countries is confirmed, the current “grand coalition” right/socialists/liberals which forges compromises in the European hemicycle should nevertheless retain the majority there.  

But it could see its room for maneuver reduced, forcing it to find additional forces and auguring intense negotiations in the weeks to come: the MEPs will have the first task of confirming the choices of the leaders of the Twenty-Seven for the presidency of the European Commission.

Ms. Meloni and her party could play a crucial role in the reappointment of Ursula von der Leyen, from the EPP (right), at the head of the European executive. In 2019, Parliament only gave it its confidence by a narrow majority (nine votes).

Above all, while MEPs adopt legislation in concert with states, the rise of radical rights could influence crucial issues: defense against an expansionist Russia, agricultural policy, 2040 climate objective, pursuit of environmental measures, etc.

“The stakes are high,” emphasized Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, two days after being attacked in Copenhagen, citing in particular “safety and security with the war in Europe”, “climate change”, “the pressure on Europe’s borders”, and the influence of “tech giants”.

The far right, however, remains divided in the European Parliament into two groups (ID and ECR) whose rapprochement remains very uncertain due to their significant differences, particularly on Russia.

“I hope that a pro-peace majority will emerge from these elections,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said after voting in Budapest. Always very critical of Brussels, the nationalist leader is also increasing attacks against NATO, accusing it of dragging the Alliance countries into a “global conflagration” – in contrast to Giorgia Meloni who strongly supports NATO. aid to Ukraine.

In countries neighboring Russia at war with Ukraine, security is a major concern. “I would like security to be strengthened […] or even the deployment of a European contingent on our territory,” says Andrzej Zmiejewski, a 51-year-old doctor, after voting in Warsaw.

The mobilization of the electorate is one of the major challenges of the election.  

The Spanish Prime Minister, the socialist Pedro Sanchez, had encouraged voters to go to the polls: “It is the vote that decides whether the future that we are building together for Europe and for Spain is a future of progress or a future of regression,” he said.  

“The EU will only succeed if it stands together and stays together. I think it’s important to stand on the side of peace and democracy,” commented Tanja Reith, a 52-year-old German voter.  

“If tomorrow there is no more Europe, there is no more France,” says Martine Dorian, 76, in Toulouse (southwest of France).