The European elections conclude today, with France, Germany and Italy among the final countries to cast their votes. The UK, Ireland and select other member states took to the polls earlier this week, and are eagerly anticipating the results. Final results won’t start to stream in until tonight when the last polling station closes at 10pm. Preliminary polls for the vote have suggested a major shake-up for some countries.
Matteo Salvini is hoping to gain significant ground in the EU this year, as he stepped up intensive campaigns to have his right-wing League party gain a majority.
The Interior Minister has been busy extending the influence of the League throughout Europe and established a group of populists within Parliament with French, German and Austrian counterparts.
Mr Salvini is hoping to use a victory within the EU to secure his place in the uneasy Italian ruling coalition between the Five Star movement and the League.
His hard-line attitude against immigration and Islam and promises of Italian sovereignty has netted him considerable support.
European elections results: The SIX countries to watch as EU braces for shake-up
French voters are experiencing a sensation of deja vu, as the French EU competition is a runoff between far-right flag-bearer Marine Le Pen and French President Emmanuel Macron.
The two were the main frontrunners in the 2017 election, and their clash reflects the growing divide between EU supporters and critics, edged by growing anti-immigration sentiment.
Macron is proudly pro-EU and is vying for a united Europe, while Le Pen has grown her own campaigns on promises of stalled immigration around the EU.
Mr Macron is hoping to increase EU budget-sharing and keep the bloc globally relevant.
Marine Le Pen is hoping to scoop the nationalist vote in the EU elections
In a developing trend for this year’s elections, Germany’s established parties are expected to lose ground.
Angela Merkel’s fragile governing coalition with the Social Democrats is under threat, as the latter party is performing poorly in the polls.
The elections serve as a test for the other half of the coalition as well, the first for new Christian Democratic Union leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
Far-right party Alternative for Germany and the Greens are tipped for a meteoric rise, with the remaining seats likely to go to various fringe parties.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has her first test as CDU leader this year
With an original Brexit date of March 21 this year, the UK was never supposed to stand in the EU Parliament elections.
After Theresa May failed to pass her withdrawal agreement through Parliament, a new Brexit date for October 31 means the UK will elect MEPs for the last time.
The perceived mishandling of Brexit from both of the established parties has led to their downfall in the polls and the conception of successful competitors.
Currently in the lead is the Brexit Party, which hopes to deliver the result of the 2016 referendum from within, and the Liberal Democrats who won a sweeping majority in the recent local elections.
Theresa May’s perceived mishandling of Brexit has cost the Conservative Party much of the vote
Populist sentiment is echoed in Hungary, as Prime Minister Viktor Orban described the elections this month as an opportunity for anti-immigration ideologies to grow their influence in the EU Parliament.
Mr Orban’s Fidesz Party membership with the European People’s Party (EPP) was suspended in March this year, as concern grew for the state of Hungary’s democracy.
The Prime Minister is hoping to build allegiance between the EPP and right-wing populist parties whilst remaining with Fidesz, a notion which has been emphatically rejected by leading politicians with the EPP.
Should populism gain significant ground in the elections this year, Mr Orban would cut ties with the EPP in favour of a more radical alliance with Matteo Salvini and other populists.
Viktor Orban is vying for the vote in Hungary
Austria’s leading Freedom Party has been caught up in a political scandal which upended leader Heinz-Christian Strache.
The Vice-Chancellor was recorded seemingly offering favours to an alleged Russian investor during a boozy meeting on the Spanish island of Ibiza two years ago.
He resigned when the video was leaked and has left an interim government headed by People’s Party leader Chancellor Sebastian Kurz as the country waits to vote in a new election.
The EU elections will serve as a valuable test both for Kurz’s Conservative People’s Party and the Freedom Party.
Follow Express.co.uk for live coverage of the European elections results tonight.