French exit polls show narrow victory for Le Pen's far-right party in European elections 2019

Sean Morrison
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French exit polls show narrow victory for Le Pen's far-right party in European elections 2019

French exit polls show narrow victory for Le Pen's far-right party in European elections 2019

Marine Le Pen's far-right party has edged just ahead of President Emmanuel Macron's centrist alliance in French exit polls for the European elections.

The National Rally scored a first-place finish in a narrow victory of just one seat, according to the first official projection of the night on Sunday.

Pollsters have expected a nationalist surge in the EU parliament election and the projected vote share dealt a blow for French President Mr Macron.

The first official projection of all 751 seats by the European Parliament indicated that losses for the pro-EU centre may have been no worse than expected, with the Greens and liberals also gaining at the expense of the centre-right and centre-left.

French President Emmanuel Macron leaves a booth after casting his vote in the European elections (AP)

Brussels officials and pro-EU party leaders also took heart from a substantial increase in turnout - the first in the 40-year history of direct elections to the Parliament.

It was about 50 per cent, up from 43 per cent in 2014 - hardly massive, but an end to the declines that have fueled talk of a "democratic deficit" that undermines the legitimacy of EU lawmaking.

Dropping about 40 seats each, the conservative European People's Party and Socialists & Democrats lost the majority they formed in a "grand coalition" with the EPP on top, according to the projection.

Gains for the liberal ALDE and its allies under Mr Macron put them in the frame for a bigger say. The Greens, in fourth place, could be kingmakers as the Socialists eye their chances of taking a lead, despite again trailing the EPP by 20-30 seats.

Agencies contributed to this report