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Far right makes gains in EU election

Far right parties made gains in the European Parliament election on Sunday, adding uncertainty to the EU’s future political direction.

Exit polls projected center, liberal and Socialist parties would retain a majority in the 720-seat parliament but would lose some 28 seats.

French President Emmanuel Macron was battered by Marine Le Pen’s far-right party.

Macron said the EU result was grim for his government and one he could not ignore, prompting him to call a snap national election.

If Le Pen’s National Rally party wins a parliamentary majority, Macron would be left with little sway over domestic affairs.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also endured a painful night.

His Social Democrats scored their worst result ever, suffering at the hands of the mainstream conservatives and hard right Alternative for Germany.

Meanwhile, exit polls showed Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni with her position strengthened, with her arch-conservative Brothers of Italy group on top.

Despite the far right’s inroads on Sunday, a centralized exit poll showed that the center-right European People’s Party, or EPP, will still be the biggest political family in the new legislature, and even gain five seats, to field 189 deputies.

That’s good news for EPP member Ursula von der Leyen as she seeks a second five-year term at the helm of the powerful EU executive arm.

As results came in, Von der Leyen was quick to present herself as a shield against extremes.

“The center is holding,” she said. “But it is also true that the extremes on the left and on the right have gained support, and this is why the result comes with great responsibility for the parties in the center.”

Analysts attribute the gains by nationalist parties across Europe to discontent over spiraling prices, concerns over migration and the cost of the green transition as well as the war in Ukraine.

Conservatives will now seek to translate their victories into influence on EU policy.

A rightwards shift inside the European Parliament may make it tougher to pass new legislation that might be needed to respond to security challenges, the impact of climate change or industrial competition from China and the United States.

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