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Anti-Immigrant Sentiment Helps Fuel Right-Wing EU Candidates


Voters across Europe are going to the polls this weekend to choose representatives to Europe's Parliament in Brussels. These elections take place every five years, and they can be an important measure of the mood of voters on the continent. This year, right-wing parties are expected to do well, as NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: These elections don't generally get a lot of attention in the U.S., but they are important for two reasons. First, Europe's Parliament sets rules about trade, immigration, and other policies that can have a big global impact. And second, these elections send a loud message about how voters in Europe are feeling. This year, the message is clear. Sara Hobolt is a political scientist at the London School of Economics.

SARA HOBOLT: Well, it says that people are fed up with the mainstream parties and that they are concerned about issues, some of them to do with the European Union, but also to do with immigration. That's a major issue, and that's a major issue that attracts voters to the far right.

SHAPIRO: The same pattern is playing out in many countries across Europe. In France, the Front National is expected to top the polls. In the Netherlands, the same is true of the Freedom Party. In Denmark, it's the Danish People's Party.

All of these groups oppose immigration and the European Union. Here in Britain, it's the UK Independence Party. In local elections on Thursday, UKIP, as it's known, made huge gains. On Friday, conservative Prime Minister David Cameron said he got the message.


PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON: People want us to deliver now that the economy is growing. We are creating jobs, but we've got to work harder, and we got to really deliver on issues that are frustrating people and frustrating me.

SHAPIRO: Still, people should not overstate the right-wing surge. Hobolt says these fringe groups might go from controlling 20 percent to 30 percent of the seats in Europe's Parliament. And she says people are less likely to cast a protest vote for these parties when choosing a national government.

HOBOLT: Voters in European elections tend to vote more sincerely or with their heart, so they feel they can express their attitudes in ways they wouldn't do if they know that this leads to the formation of a government.

SHAPIRO: The final votes will be cast Sunday with results coming in Monday morning. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.