Italy will be the last member state to close its ballot boxes at 2200 BST tonight.
The FT’s Miles Johnson in Rome reports on how populist leader Matteo Salvini’s Twitter account is causing consternation.
Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s anti-migration League party, was criticised by opposition politicians over the weekend for continuing to tweet about the elections even as the country was under a formal “electoral silence” ahead of voting.
Italy’s laws against campaigning in the days running up to an election were written long before the existence of the internet and do not formally include social media. As interior minster Mr Salvini’s own ministry is responsible for policing elections in Italy.
Matteo Renzi, the Democratic Party ex-prime minister, wrote himself on Twitter: “Salvini, minister of the interior, should set an example by respecting the electoral silence instead of violating it”.
Mr Salvini has continued to tweet throughout Sunday.
Here’s a summary of those turnout jumps. They’re figures from national authorities compiled by the European Parliament which the FT has seen:
What will the new European Parliament look like?
We get the first estimated look at the new EP at 19.15 BST but before then you can keep updated with the national polls using the FT’s poll tracker:
A big thing to note is the “new” category which for now will include the UK’s Brexit party and other new parties that haven’t formally joined existing alliances in the parliament, like Spain’s far-right Vox. Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche is counted with the liberal Alde group.
Voters turnout rises sharply in Poland and Hungary
There have been big rises in turnout in Hungary, up almost 11 per cent so far today and 9 per cent in Poland (the ballots are still open), according to estimates seen by the Financial Times.
Of the votes that have already closed, only Malta reported a slight decrease in turnout.
“We think the average turnout will rise 2-3 percentage points” says one parliament official.
What to watch from the EU’s biggest member state
The FT’s Guy Chazan reports from Berlin on how the EU election and another regional vote in Bremen today will be the first big test for Germany’s two dominant mainstream parties:
In Germany, the poll is the first electoral test for Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the woman who succeeded Angela Merkel as CDU leader last December and is widely expected to replace her as chancellor when her fourth and final term ends in 2021. But her standing in the CDU could be dealt a big blow if the party garners substantially less than the 30 per cent it won in 2014.
Germany’s left-of-centre Social Democrats will also come under pressure if, as expected, their share of the vote drops far below the 27 per cent they garnered in 2014. A poor performance will likely trigger calls from the grass roots for the SPD to quit its grand coalition with Ms Merkel’s CDU, which many activists blame for the party’s misfortune.
The SPD is also braced for bad news from Bremen, the city state which is today electing a new parliament. The Social Democrats have governed the city since 1945. But polls suggest it could be overtaken as the largest party this year by the CDU.
Turnouts rise across Europe
A big thing to watch before the ballot boxes close tonight is reported turnout levels. Historically, EP elections have had very poor voter participation (it last broke 50 per cent in 1994) but the tide might be turning in 2019.
At 5pm in France, turnout is up significantly at around 43 per cent, compared to 35p per cent in 2014 (see tweet below). In Sweden, the country’s electoral authority has noted record high turnout at 20.3 per cent. In Slovakia, which reported the lowest turnout of any member state in 2014 at just 13 per cent, it has risen to around 20 per cent.
A quick thing to note from the FT’s coverage tonight. Due to legal restrictions in the UK, we will not be reporting national exit polls from member states and instead using estimates compiled by the European Parliament throughout the night. The first batch – from Austria, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Malta, and the Netherlands will drop at 1700 CET.
Hello and welcome to the FT’s live coverage of the EU elections coming to you from the European Parliament in Brussels. Team Brussels, composed of myself, Jim Brunsden and Alex Barker, will be guiding you through the night until the early hours of the morning along with contributions from our correspondents across the continent.
The last ballot box in the EU closes at 2200 BST in Italy. Before then we’ll be giving you regularly updated estimates from across Europe. Here’s some useful timings to note (in BST):
• 19.00: The first estimate of France’s election results from the European Parliament
• 19.15: the first set of aggregate numbers for the new look European Parliament based on 12 national estimates
• 20.15: the second set of aggregate numbers of the European Parliament based on 17 national estimates
• 22.15: The first official EP results projection