The European election race in France is neck-and-neck as Marine Le Pen's far-right Rassemblement National overtakes President Emmanuel Macron's LREM party with a slight lead, according to projections from Europe Elects.
Europe Elects, which provides poll aggregation and election analysis, said the Eurosceptic party has held steady with Macron's LREM party. But the group cautioned against seeing the forecast as a sign that Le Pen, who has seized some votes from yellow vests (Gilets Jaunes) protesters in recent months, is gaining momentum.
"Le Pen's RN is not really gaining momentum. More than this, Macron's LREM is just dropping a bit and mainly small minor parties are profiting from this LREM decline while RN remains stable. So, yes, RN is now a bit ahead of Macron's LREM but it's because LREM is declining, not because RN is rising," said Tobias Gerhard Schminke, founder of Europe Elects, to Euronews.
"Front National (the name of RN in 2014) had 25% in the 2014 EU election, and polls say that Le Pen will perform weaker than that time. This is something important we need to keep in mind. Conclusion: There is no right-wing surge in France."
Winners and losers
Eurosceptic party Dutch Forum for Democracy (FvD) party has made gains in the Europe Elects projections following a strong showing in the Netherlands provincial elections. The anti-EU party could become the largest individual party in the Netherlands during the EU elections — and could prove beneficial to the wounded European Conservatives and Reformists group, with whom FvD is allied.
According to Europe Elects' figures, the centre-right European People's Party and centre-left Socialists and Democrats groups are likely to be in a tight race if Hungary's ruling party Fidesz leaves its EPP group. Fidesz leader and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban this week withdrew his support for EPP leader Manfred Weber as a candidate to take on the EU's top job.
UK wades into the EU race
The UK government confirmed this week that Britain will take part in the EU elections. The announcement comes after both the Conservative and Labour parties were felled in the local elections. The Liberal Democrats — who made more than 680 gains — and the Greens, which pulled in another 185 new councillors, emerged as the winners for giving a dent to the two largest political parties. Both parties have called for a second referendum on Brexit.
While on the surface the results reflect Britons' disappointment over the handling of Brexit — it remains to be seen if the results are in fact a rallying call for a so-called People's Vote.
"What's important to remember is that we will have different parties competing in the EU election, the Brexit Party, Change UK, and others did not compete nation-wide in the English and Northern Irish local elections. This may change the dynamics we observed in the local elections," said Schminke.
The European Elections take place between May 23-26.
For a full breakdown of European Parliament seat projections by country, see the chart below.
The flow chart below illustrates how projected votes have evolved since the 2014 European Elections.
The data in the European Parliament projection is collected by Europe Elects and is based on publicly available opinion polls about voting intentions and election results in countries of the EU28 (member states of the European Union without the United Kingdom). In cases where no European election opinion poll is available, opinion polls for national elections were used. In cases where no opinion pollings on voting intentions were published since the last national election, the election result is used. For more information on the methodology, please visit Europe Elects.