Netherlands kicks off European Union election across 27 nations

Netherlands, June 7: Polls opened in the Netherlands on Thursday to kick off four days of voting in European Union parliamentary elections across the 27 member states that are expected to deliver gains for the hard right.

Geert Wilders, of the far-right Party for Freedom, or PVV, was among the first senior politicians to cast his ballot. Having sent shockwaves around Europe six months ago by becoming the biggest party in the Dutch national parliament, he now wants to build on that popularity and set the tone for much of the bloc, with calls to claw powers back to national capitals and away from the EU so member states have more autonomy on issues such as migration.

Paradoxically, like many hard right parties across the bloc, he wants to get more powers in the European parliament, so he can weaken the EU institutions from within.

“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.

That is why he was immediately calling 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 center parties, which call for a more united European approach on anything from climate change measures to defense, arguing individual nations only have a weak voice on the global stage.

Since the last EU elections five years ago, 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.

The EU elections are the world’s second-biggest exercise in democracy behind the election in India, and the stakes are high.

Almost 400 million voters will be electing 720 members of the European Parliament from beyond the Arctic Circle to the edges of Africa and Asia. The results will have an impact on issues ranging from global climate policies and defense to migration and geopolitical relations with China and the United States.(AP)

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