What to Expect as Europe Decides Its Future: Election Day Guide

Bloomberg News
What to Expect as Europe Decides Its Future: Election Day Guide

(Bloomberg) -- When Europeans head to the polls, the outcome will determine who steers the continent in the years to come and may throw some countries’ governments into disarray.

While the ballot has been cast as a showdown between populist firebrands and the establishment over control of the European Union’s political and economic direction, it’s also a series of national and regional battles. The vote -- which involves the awkward participation of want-away Britain -- will say as much about local realities as it does about the big debate over the bloc’s future.

With dozens of reporters and editors across the EU, Bloomberg will be live-blogging the vote, covering every angle of the election outcomes and the immediate fallout. As we await results on Sunday evening, here’s a handy guide to the key battlegrounds across the 28 member states.

Merkel Squeezed

Angela Merkel is facing a battle to serve out her fourth and final term. Her chosen successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has pressured the chancellor to consider making way if her Christian Democrats lose more support in the European vote. The bigger risk may come from the Social Democrats. A poor result could push Merkel’s reluctant coalition partner to bring down the government, especially if the party loses control in the city-state of Bremen — a traditional SPD stronghold — where voters are also selecting a new administration.

Timing: Exit polls at 6 p.m. (All times CET)

Macron Humbled

French President Emmanuel Macron faces a tight race with nationalist Marine Le Pen in a rematch of the 2017 presidential race. If he loses, it could undermine his grand plans for tighter EU integration. More than six months of Yellow Vest protests have pushed Macron to backtrack on key reforms and offer tax cuts and subsidies in an effort to appease protesters. A bad result tonight may further push him toward even more expensive concessions.

Timing: Exit polls at 8 p.m.

British Protest

The U.K.’s vote for the European Parliament is a symbol of Prime Minister Theresa May’s failure to deliver Brexit. While she’s paying the price by stepping down on June 7, the chaos has had one big winner: Nigel Farage. The pint-swilling populist has returned to front-line politics to lead a new single-issue group -- the Brexit Party -- and looks set to triumph again. May’s Tories, meanwhile, are braced for potentially the worst result in their history, with some fearing they could end up without any representation at all.

Timing: Provisional official results around midnight

Italian Fragility

If Italy’s deputy premier Matteo Salvini can push deeper into Five Star’s base in the south in Sunday’s ballot — held on the same day as nearly 4,000 mayoral contests — he could trigger an early general election. The problem is that his honeymoon with voters may be starting to sour, and the fall of his ally in Vienna, Heinz-Christian Strache, over an influence-peddling video won’t help.

Timing: Exit polls at 11 p.m.

Sanchez’s Chances

Pedro Sanchez’s Socialists have a chance to grab control of Madrid’s regional government for the first time in 24 years, a feat that could help propel the acting prime minister toward a second term and make him a political force beyond Spain. A win on Sunday would also play into a broader plan by Sanchez to leapfrog Italy in Europe’s pecking order. The euro area’s fourth-largest economy has traditionally lacked the political clout in Brussels of No. 3 Italy, but Sanchez and some of his aides think Rome’s euro-skeptic turn means it’s time for Spain to punch above its economic weight.

Timing: First projections of the result at 8 p.m.

Austrian Upheaval

Voters get their first chance to weigh in after Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s government toppled following a lurid video that compromised his nationalist coalition partner. A strong showing would bolster Europe’s youngest leader as he faces the risk of a no-confidence vote on Monday. For the embattled Freedom Party, the ballot will be a test of their ability to deflect the scandal by blaming the video on a conspiracy by foreign operatives.

Timing: Initial polls at 5 p.m.

Hungary’s King

Prime Minister Viktor Orban is projected to dominate the election just as he has done with every ballot in the past decade. The real question is what happens afterward. If the illiberal leader formally joins the far-right, he may feel emboldened to remove the remaining checks on his power to create the closest thing to authoritarian rule inside the EU.

Timing: Results at 11 p.m.

Greek Teflon

An unexpectedly good or a surprisingly bad outcome for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras may prompt Greece’s firebrand leader to call a snap national ballot as early as June, rather than complete his term in October. That could put an early end to an extended pre-election period marked by handouts and revived tension with creditors. It may also signal the beginning of the end for Tsipras or confirm his Teflon qualities.

Timing: Exit polls at 6 p.m.; official projections around 11 p.m.

Belgian Mess

Belgium’s center-right governing parties look set to lose their majority in federal parliament, denying them a chance to revive a reform project that collapsed together with the four-party coalition six months ago. With Flemish voters increasingly shifting to the right and Walloon voters moving to the left, forming a five- or six-party federal coalition may be a very hard nut to crack.

Timing: National voting ends at 2 p.m. and results start trickling in less than a hour later; provisional EU results due at midnight

Romanian Challenges

De facto leader Liviu Dragnea may see his position at the helm of the ruling Social Democratic party challenged in case of a low result. Meanwhile, President Klaus Iohannis is testing the waters prior to a re-election bid later this year by using the European ballot to ask voters about a controversial judiciary overhaul, which the EU says undermines the nation’s democracy. All of this has implications for one of Europe’s fastest growing economies.

Timing: First estimates due at 9 p.m.

--With assistance from Zoltan Simon, Sotiris Nikas, Eleni Chrepa, Andra Timu, Gregory Viscusi, Helene Fouquet, Jeannette Neumann, Jonathan Stearns, Ian Wishart, Viktoria Dendrinou, Patrick Donahue, John Martens, Zoe Schneeweiss and Boris Groendahl.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Nikos Chrysoloras in Brussels at nchrysoloras@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net, ;Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Chris Reiter, Ben Sills

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