French far right, Greek left poised for win on Europe's 'Super Sunday'
The far right anti-EU National Front was forecast to win a European Parliament election in France, topping a nationwide ballot for the first time in a stunning advance for opponents of European integration.
Critics of the European Union, riding a wave of anger over austerity and mass unemployment, gained ground elsewhere but in Germany, the EU's biggest member state, the pro-European centre ground held firm, according to exit polls.
It was a different story in Greece, however, epicentre of the euro zone's debt crisis, where the far-left anti-austerity Syriza movement of Alexis Tsipras was expected to take 26-30 percent of the vote, pushing governing New Democracy into second place.
In France, Marine Le Pen's nationalist movement which blames Brussels for everything from immigration to job losses, was set to take about 25 percent of the vote, comfortably ahead of the conservative opposition UMP on about 21 percent.
President Francois Hollande's Socialists suffered their second electoral humiliation in two months after losing dozens of town halls, trailing far behind in third place with about 14.5 percent, according to projections based on partial results.
With official results from around the 28-nation bloc due late this evening, pro-European centre-left and centre-right parties seemed sure to maintain control of the 751-seat EU legislature, but the number of Eurosceptic members may double.
In Britain, the UK Independence Party, which campaigns to leave the European Union, was set for a strong score after making big gains in local elections held at the same time on Thursday.
But in the Netherlands, the anti-Islam, Eurosceptic Freedom Party of Geert Wilders' - which plans to forge an alliance with France's National Front - fell well short of its goal of topping the poll.
Projections by German television indicated that Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats would secure 36 percent of the vote, down from a 23-year-high of 41.5 percent in last year's federal election but still a clear victory.
The centre-left Social Democrats were forecast to take 27.5 percent, according to public broadcaster ARD, with turnout up from the last European elections in 2009.
The anti-euro Alternative for Germany (AfD) party won parliamentary representation for the first time with an estimated 6.5 percent, the best result so far for a conservative party created only last year.
"Germany has cast a clear pro-Europe vote and the high turnout is a good signal for the idea of European unity," said David McAllister, the top Christian Democrat candidate.