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The Irish and the Czechs vote on Day 2 of EU elections as the far right seeks to gain more power


BRUSSELS (AP) — Voters in Ireland and the Czech Republic are going to the polls Friday on the second day of the elections for the European Parliament, with a surge of the far-right across the 27-nation bloc most likely to materialize at the end of the electoral marathon.

Final results will not be released until Sunday night, once every country has voted. However, an exit poll Thursday after the elections kicked off in the Netherlands confirmed that Geert Wilders’ far-right PVV party should make big gains.

Although a coalition of pro-European parties pushed the PVV into second place amid a bigger turnout than at the previous EU elections, Wilders’ party looked to have made the biggest gains of the night.

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. Far-right parties in France, Belgium, Austria and Italy are frontrunners in the EU elections.

The Czech Republic is contesting 21 seats in the election Friday and Saturday with an opposition ANO (YES) movement led by former populist Prime Minister Andrej Babis favored to win with an agenda critical of the European mainstream.

Immigration has risen up Ireland’s political agenda, with independent candidates calling for tighter controls expected to win many votes — although Ireland lacks a large far-right party capable of consolidating anti-immigrant sentiment.

The immigration issue is eroding support for left-of-center Sinn Fein, the party once linked to the Irish Republican Army, which had been on track to become Ireland’s most popular party.

On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron warned that the EU risked being brought to a standstill if far-right parties have a big representation at the Parliament. France’s National Rally’s lead European Parliament candidate Jordan Bardella was quick to fire back at Macron, urging French voters to choose his party to block the EU’s “harmful policies, such as punitive ecology against our farmers or migratory submersion.”

Almost 400 million voters will be electing 720 members of the European Parliament to five-year terms.

EU lawmakers can vote on a wide range of legislation covering banking rules, climate, agriculture, fisheries, security and justice, and the stakes are high. They also vote on the EU budget, which is crucial to the implementation of European policies, including, for instance, the aid delivered to Ukraine.

The number of lawmakers elected in each country depends on the size of the population. It ranges from six for Malta, Luxembourg and Cyprus to 96 for Germany. Voters in Czech Republic will elect 21 members of the European Parliament, while 14 seats are up for grabs in Ireland, where immigration, housing crisis and the cost of living have emerged as election issues.


Associated Press writers Jill Lawless in London and Karel Janicek in Prague contributed to this report.