Exit polls show far-right, centre-left alliance neck and neck in EU parliament elections

Exit polls show far-right, centre-left alliance neck and neck in EU parliament elections

Final exit polls in the Netherlands suggest Geert Wilders' far-right party has made big gains and is in a neck and neck race with a centre-left alliance in EU parliament elections.

The final exit poll conducted by Ipsos I&O shows the GreenLeft-Labour alliance on course to win eight seats in parliament, with Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) expected to pick up seven, six more than it did in the 2019 elections.

The PVV's win is being seen a sign of possible electoral gains for the hard right across the Europe Union.

But there were mixed feelings about Wilders and his right-wing politics at voting stations.

"These elections showed that people are fed up with the system at the moment, so things must be changed, but I don't think the vision of Mr. Wilders is the right vision," said voter, Darpan van Kuik.

"At this moment for me, the best option should be that we support him (Wilders). See, he is also bounded in the national constitution, he cannot do more than that," said Sradhanand Sital.

Wilders himself was jubilant in a post on X, describing his PVV party as "the biggest winner".

The PVV sent shockwaves around Europe six months ago by becoming the biggest party in the Dutch national parliament and Wilders now wants to build on that popularity and set the tone for much of the bloc, with calls to bring power back to national capitals and away from Brussels so that member states have more autonomy on issues such as migration.

But like many hard-right parties across the bloc, Wilders wants to get more power in the European Parliament, allegedly so he can weaken EU institutions from within.

Wilders has in the past called for the Netherlands to leave the EU as Britain did, but his party’s manifesto for the election starting Thursday makes no mention of a so-called Nexit. Instead, it urges voters to back the PVV so it can change the EU from within, similar to plans of many other hard right parties across the bloc.

"You also need to have a strong presence in the European Parliament and make sure that, if necessary, we will be able to change the European guidelines in order to be in charge of our own immigration policy and asylum policy," Wilders said after voting in The Hague.

This is very important as a message to the European Union and also for achieving and making a larger group in the European Parliament

He has called for a broad alliance of hard-right parties to break up the traditional coalition of Christian Democrats, Socialists, pro-business Liberals and Greens.

"Making a larger group in the European Parliament,” Wilders said, "that gives us power to change all those European regulations in order to be more in charge of it ourselves, here in the national parliaments."

Wilders, Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and French opposition leader Marine Le Pen stand in stark contrast to much of the left and many centrist parties, which call for a more united European approach on everything from climate change measures to defence, arguing individual nations only have a weak voice on the global stage.

"It is important that the European Union is a good and strong partner," said Gerard Kroon, a 66-year-old who works for the Hague municipality and voted in city hall for pro-Europe party Volt.

"We have to get things done all together. Not only in Europe but in the Netherlands too."

A bicyclist passes a billboard for the European Election opposite the Concertgebouw concert hall in Amsterdam, June 5, 2024
A bicyclist passes a billboard for the European Election opposite the Concertgebouw concert hall in Amsterdam, June 5, 2024 - Peter Dejong/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

Since the last EU election in 2019, populist, far-right and extremist parties now lead governments in three EU nations, are part of governing coalitions in several others, and appear to have surging public support across the continent.

Hacking attack

Meanwhile, a pro-Kremlin hacker group claimed responsibility for what appeared to be a coordinated attack on the websites of Dutch political parties and EU institutions on the first day of the European elections.

At least three Dutch political parties - the Christian Democratic Alliance (CDA), the Party for Freedom (PVV) and the Forum for Democracy (FvD) - claimed their websites were targeted by cyber-attacks on Thursday.

The Dutch centre-right Christian Democratic Appeal party reported that its website was 'temporarily less accessible' because of a distributed denial of service attack Thursday.

"On election day, we consider this an attack on free, democratic elections," the party posted on X.

National broadcaster NOS reported that the site of Wilders' PVV party and the far-right Forum for Democracy were also briefly down.

The Netherlands is electing 31 of the 720 members of the European Parliament to five-year terms.

Final results for the entire EU will be announced in Brussels after polls close Sunday night.