Dramatic night across the EU crowned by Macron’s bombshell

By Paul Kirby and Laura Gozzi, BBC News in Brussels and Rome

EPA Supporters of the National Group (RN) celebrateEPA

Supporters of France’s National Rally (RN) react after President Macron’s decision to call parliamentary elections

Exit polls had begun to appear at the end of the European elections in the 27 EU countries, when President Emmanuel Macron delivered his explosive moment in a televised speech to a stunned French population.

“I have decided to return the election of our future parliamentarian to them through a vote. Therefore, I dissolve the National Assembly.” he declared.

The National Rally party, led by Macron’s rivals Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella, was one of the breakthroughs that Europe’s far-right parties had hoped for, and confirmation came with all the exit polls giving the party more than 30%, double. of Macron’s centrist revival.

But beyond France, the broader story of Europe’s four-day election marathon really belonged to center-right parties.

They tightened their control over the European Parliament, with victories in Germany and Spain, and significant gains in Hungary, against long-ruling Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The far right did not enjoy as big a rise across Europe as many had predicted.

In it NetherlandsGeert Wilders’ Freedom Party came in second, while Austria’The party of the same name emerged victorious, but just barely.

“The center remains, but it is also true that the extremes of the left and right have gained support,” said Ursula von der Leyen, center-right head of the European Commission.

“And that is why the result carries great responsibility for the center parties.”

There had been talk before the vote that his dominant European People’s Party might consider talking to the two right-wing groups that harbor the far right.

But he made it clear that his only allies would be the Socialists and Democrats and the liberal group Renew, which includes Macron’s party.

GermanyThe opposition Conservatives were always going to emerge victorious and won an impressive 30% of the vote.

But for Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s SPD party, this was the worst result ever in a European election, coming third behind the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The AfD has endured a series of scandals involving espionage, foreign interference and accusations of Nazi sympathies, yet its support has endured.

“After all the doom prophecies, after the bombing of the last few weeks, we are the second strongest force. And I assure you, the only way is up,” said co-leader Alice Weidel.

EPA Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla of the AfD celebrate the exit pollsEPA

AfD’s Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla celebrate exit polls

Meanwhile, a new far-left anti-immigration party, BSW, led by charismatic left-wing firebrand Sahra Wagenknecht, also performed well, completing a good night for radical parties.

In SpainThe center-right opposition Popular Party (PP) defeated Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialists, but not by the large margin that PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo expected.

Another far-right party, Vox, came in a distant third.

Meanwhile in ItalyGiorgia Meloni’s dominance in the country’s politics continues.

His far-right Brothers of Italy defeated Elly Schlein’s center-left Democratic Party by less than four points.

“Thank you to the Italians who continue to choose us… I am proud of the result tonight,” she told her followers.

Reuters Giorgia Meloni speaks at an election night rallyReuters

Giorgia Meloni thanked the Italians for “continuing to choose” their party

In just five years, Meloni has more than doubled his party’s seats in the European Parliament, while Schlein’s performance pleasantly surprised even party activists.

There were no far-right success stories in Belgiumof the national elections, even though the Flemish separatist party Vlaams Belang was expected to win.

The Flemish National Alliance is now the dominant party there, ending the government of liberal Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.

“The far right has underperformed in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Finland and Poland. But it has outperformed in France,” said Professor Alberto Alemanno of HEC Paris, who was surprised that President Macron decided to dissolve parliament.

“It is disproportionate that these election results can expel a government from a country,” he told the BBC.

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