Voters head to the polls on final day of EU elections

Voting began across Europe Sunday on the final -- and biggest -- day of marathon EU elections, with balloting due in 21 countries, including France and Germany, where support for surging far-right parties is being tested.

It is a pivotal time for Europe. The continent is confronted with the war in Ukraine, global trade and industrial tensions marked by US-China rivalry, a climate emergency and a West that within months may have to adapt to a new Donald Trump presidency.

The vote outcome will determine the bloc's next parliament and indirectly the makeup of the powerful European Commission -- thus helping to shape European Union policies over the coming five years.

The elections "are crucial because the European Parliament must start to play its rightful role", voter Kostas Karagiannis told AFP as he emerged from a polling station in Athens.

"It must play its part in the daily lives of all European citizens."

While centrist mainstream parties are projected to hold most of the incoming European Parliament's 720 seats, polls suggest they will be weakened by a stronger far right pushing the bloc towards ultraconservatism.

Many European voters, hammered by a high cost of living and fearing immigrants to be the source of social ills, are increasingly persuaded by its populist messaging.

Hungarian voter Ferenc Hamori, 54, said he wanted to see the 27-nation bloc led more by politicians like his country's right-wing leader Viktor Orban.

Orban "will win the elections here, but he will still be outnumbered in Brussels", the physical education teacher told AFP in a village near Budapest.

Battleground France


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