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EU elections kick off as polls open in UK, Netherlands

AFP

Britain and the Netherlands head to the polls on Thursday, kicking off elections to the European parliament that are expected to see a swing towards populist right-wing parties.

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The elections, which began at 0530 GMT in the Netherlands and are spread over four days in the EU’s 28 member states, are expected to see major gains for parties bent on dismantling the European Union from the inside.

“I think it’s very important to vote because I personally believe in a united Europe,” said 64-year-old Bijleveld Marja, the first to vote at the polling station in The Hague. ‘‘If you are against Europe, then you are not correctly informed.”

“I believe in Europe, but I think there are far too many rules coming from Brussels,” Margreet de Jonge, 63, told the Agence France-Presse news agency as she cast her ballot in The Hague, echoing the view of many that the EU has become a bloated bureaucracy.

When the results are announced from 2100 GMT on Sunday, Eurosceptic parties may top the polls in Britain, France, Italy and the Netherlands.

The anti-immigration and anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) of Nigel Farage, and Geert Wilders’ virulently anti-Islam Party of Freedom (PVV), are both forecast to make big gains.

UKIP’s rise has rocked the British political establishment as a party without a single representative in its national parliament heads into the European election slightly ahead of the main opposition Labour Party, according to a poll published by UK daily The Times on the morning of the vote.

Farage, a former financial trader who likes to hold court with journalists in the pub, has ruled out joining a far-right bloc of Wilders’ party and France’s National Front, led by Marine Le Pen.

Wilders hopes UKIP will sign up to the grouping, but Farage has refused to do business with an alliance involving the National Front, which he considers anti-Semitic.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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