Hungarian leader hopes for shift on migration

Hungary’s prime minister has said he hopes the European Parliament election will bring a shift towards political parties that want to stop migration.

Viktor Orban said after casting his vote at a school near his Budapest home on Sunday that the issue of migration, which he believes is stoppable, “will reorganise the political spectrum in the European Union”.

A member of the election commission carries a ballot box during the European elections in a polling station in Budapest,(Zoltan Balogh/MTI /AP)
A member of the election commission carries a ballot box during the European elections in a polling station in Budapest,(Zoltan Balogh/MTI /AP)

Mr Orban, whose Fidesz party had its membership suspended in the centre-right European People’s Party, the largest political bloc in the EU parliament, because of concerns about Hungary’s democracy, said Fidesz would want to stay in the EPP only if it can influence the group’s future strategy.

Mr Orban recently met Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, but has not committed to joining the more radically nationalist alliance that Mr Salvini has been forming.

Fidesz is expected to win up to 14 of Hungary’s 21 seats in the EU parliament.

People queue to cast their votes at a polling station in Antwerp, Belgium (Virginia Mayo/AP)
People queue to cast their votes at a polling station in Antwerp, Belgium (Virginia Mayo/AP)

In Belgium, voters were heading to the polls in national and regional elections as well as the EU elections on Sunday.

Polls opened at 8am (0700GMT) and the first estimates and exit polls were expected by 6pm (1700GMT).

In the national elections, Belgians are looking to end months of political limbo after the biggest party in the governing coalition quit over Prime Minister Charles Michel’s support for the UN migration pact.

Mr Michel has steered a caretaker government doing only day-to-day business since December, but with the country’s eight million voters choosing from more than a dozen parties, it is likely to prove difficult for him to quickly form a stable coalition.

Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borissov (Rick Findler/PA)
Prime Minister of Bulgaria Boyko Borissov (Rick Findler/PA)

Meanwhile, Bulgarians are voting in the European Parliament elections after a series of scandals overshadowed the debate on key issues of the EU’s future.

Voters were casting ballots for their country’s 17 seats in the 751-member European Parliament.

The vote is seen as a test for the centre-right party of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, which suffered a setback after senior officials were involved in corruption scandals.

Latest surveys showed only three parties, belonging to mainstream European political groups, passing the election threshold – the ruling GERB party, the Socialist party, and the liberal MRF.

Projections suggest the nationalist and far-right vote will be split between several smaller parties, which could prevent them from capturing seats in the EU legislature.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (Michael Gruber/AP)
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (Michael Gruber/AP)

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he hoped the European Parliament elections would strengthen the centre rather than parties on the far right and left.

He told reporters in Vienna on Sunday that he hopes his centre-right People’s Party would retain first place in the race for seats in the EU legislature.

The vote has turned into a first test of support ahead of a national election in September following the collapse of Mr Kurz’s governing coalition a week ago in a scandal surrounding the now-departed leader of the far-right Freedom Party, which was his junior coalition partner.

Regardless of the result, Mr Kurz faces a no-confidence vote brought by the opposition in parliament on Monday. He said he expects the Freedom Party and the Social Democrats to back it, which would bring him down.

Spanish caretaker Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he hoped the outcome of Sunday’s European and local elections will lead to more “political stability” for Spain as he attempts to form a government.

Mr Sanchez called on “all the political forces to open a horizon of political stability” after he voted with his wife in Madrid on Sunday morning.

He added that the elections are “to decide the future of progress and well-being for the entirety of our country and Europe”.

A man picks ballot papers at a polling station in Bascara, Spain,(Emilio Morenatti/AP))
A man picks ballot papers at a polling station in Bascara, Spain,(Emilio Morenatti/AP))

Voter opinion polls point to a victory for Mr Sanchez’s Socialist Party in the European elections.

Elections are also taking place for administrations in all Spain’s cities, including deciding on a second term for the female mayors of Madrid and Barcelona, and 14 of its 19 regions.

Mr Sanchez’s Socialists won national elections in Spain on April 28, but fell short of winning an outright majority and will need to earn the support from rivals in Parliament to stay in power.

- Press Association

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