With Europe the most unsettled it’s been in decades, European Union nations began voting on Thursday for members of the bloc’s Parliament.
Across the Continent, member nations have been rattled over the past five years by waves of nationalism and populism. In Italy, anti-migrant forces have gathered strength. In Austria, the far right helped cause the government to unravel. In Hungary, an authoritarian leader has chipped away at democracy.
In France, a banker-turned-president has squared off with people protesting inequality. In Germany, the chancellor hailed as Europe’s leader for a decade is preparing to step down. And in Britain, voters are electing candidates to a Parliament that the country has tried, and so far failed, to leave.
Here’s a guide to our coverage of the elections, the results of which are expected on Sunday.
The elections explained
• Voters will elect 751 members of the European Parliament to five-year terms, with the number of seats for each nation determined primarily by population. Europe’s transnational system of governance is complicated in the best of times, but we’ve broken it down — and explained the dynamics at play — in a guide you can read here.
• What is Europe? The New York Times’s Berlin bureau chief set out to ask that question across the Continent, and heard a disorienting whirl of answers: feelings of freedom and imprisonment, of hope and disappointment, and in some cases of “nothing at all.”
• The elections, usually low turnout affairs, will measure the strength of Europe’s far-right populists, who have for weeks bashed the European Union, migrants and Islam, while promising a new era of nationalism. Parties like Italy’s League and France’s National Rally — formerly the National Front — have allied to try to change the nature of the bloc.
• Against those movements stands President Emmanuel Macron of France and the centrists he has struggled to rally behind him. While Mr. Macron has tried to grant concessions to the economic Yellow Vest protests at home, he has kept his ambitions for greater European integration, even as his allies in Germany have taken a more pragmatic tack.
Around the Continent
• Various websites and social media accounts linked to Russia or far-right groups are spreading disinformation, encouraging discord and amplifying distrust in the centrist parties that have dominated the bloc for decades. Investigators have found hundreds of Facebook and Twitter accounts and thousands of WhatsApp messages sharing suspicious materials.
• Italy’s hard-line interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has taken his anti-immigrant rhetoric on a perpetual tour around the country. He has called the election “a referendum between life and death” and an opportunity for his League party to become “the leading party in Europe.”
• Austria’s governing coalition of conservatives and the far-right Freedom Party has dramatically collapsed, after a video emerged showing the far-right party’s leader discussing an exchange of favors with a woman claiming to be a Russian oligarch’s niece.
• Although Britain voted in a referendum three years ago to leave the European Union, it has failed to agree on how to do so, and the bloc has given it a new deadline, of Oct. 31. Because of that extension, the British will vote for members of the European Parliament. Among the leading parties: the policy-light, populism-heavy Brexit Party, fronted by Nigel Farage. (Mr. Farage was one of the nationalist leaders recently doused by a milkshake, a foodstuff recently taken up as a symbol of protest against right wing politics.)
Source : Nytimes