Slovakia, Italy vote in European Union elections

People in multiple European countries are casting ballots on third day of polls before last and biggest stage of voting on Sunday.

Almost 370 million Europeans can vote in the 27-member bloc, with the largest countries casting their ballots on the last day [Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP Photo]

Voters in Slovakia, Italy and other countries in the European Union are heading to polling stations on Saturday to elect their representatives in the European Parliament.

On the third day of the elections, Slovakia is casting its votes under the shadow of an assassination attempt on populist Prime Minister Robert Fico on May 15.

The nation of 5.4 million is choosing between representatives of Fico’s Smer party – the top party in the incumbent governing coalition – and the main opposition Progressive Slovakia, a pro-Western liberal party.

Fico released his first public statement since the attack in the form of a pre-recorded video just hours before the start of the pre-election silence period on Wednesday, arguing that he was attacked due to his divergent views from the European mainstream.

He opposes support for Ukraine against the Russian invasion and ended Slovakia’s military support after being sworn in on October 25. He also opposes EU sanctions on Russia and wants to block Ukraine from joining NATO.

Also on Saturday, voters in Italy will begin casting their ballots over two days to fill a considerable 76 European parliamentary seats which could help shape its future direction.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her far-right Brothers of Italy are expected to be the big winners, gaining over coalition partners such as the anti-migrant League and the centre-right Forza Italia.

Her backing could affect whether Ursula von der Leyen earns a second term at the helm of the European Commission, with a potential alliance looming. Meloni has also been courted by French far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the hopes of creating a far-right alliance.

Leila Simona Talani, director of the Centre for Italian Politics at King’s College London, told Al Jazeera that anti-immigration policies are a considerable driver of the far-right in the elections, but not the only one.

“One of the reasons is the war in Ukraine and there is a lot of polarisation among parties on whether or not we should continue this effort to support Ukraine,” she said.

“My impression is not that the whole European Parliament is moving to the right. I don’t even think the majority will move to the right, but they are getting more votes.”

Voters in Latvia, Malta and the Czech Republic are also casting ballots on Saturday. Final results for the 720-seat European Parliament are not expected until Sunday night when every country has voted.

The fourth and final day of voting on Sunday will also be the biggest, with citizens in 20 of the 27-member bloc, including voters in Germany, France and Poland, heading to the polls.

Seats are allocated based on population, ranging from six in Malta or Luxembourg to 96 in Germany. Almost 370 million Europeans are eligible to vote to send representatives to the only directly elected EU institution which has the power to block legislation.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies