Taoiseach Leo Varadkar casts his vote at Scoil Thomais, Castleknock as people across the Republic of Ireland go to the polls to vote in the European and local elections along with the referendum on Ireland's divorce laws, in Dublin, Friday May 24, 2019. (Brian Lawless/PA via AP)

The Latest: Green party gains strength in Irish votes

May 25, 2019 - 12:11 pm

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on the European Parliament elections taking place Saturday (all times local):

5:40 p.m.

Early vote counts and an exit poll in Ireland suggest that the Green Party is gaining strength in that European Union nation as it challenges three larger parties in local and European elections.

In the Irish votes Friday, an exit poll of more than 3,000 voters suggests that Ireland's top two parties — the governing party Fine Gael and the more conservative opposition party Fianna Fail — are running neck and neck, followed by the nationalist Sinn Fein party and the pro-environment Greens.

Early vote counts on Saturday in Ireland's local election confirmed these trends. Vote counting in the European parliament races will begin Sunday morning.

The Red C Research exit poll, which had a margin of error of 3%, also suggests very strong support for a proposal to liberalize Ireland's divorce laws.

Irish voters last year decided in a referendum to overturn the country's ban on abortions.

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10:15 a.m.

A far-right party in Slovakia that openly admires the country's wartime Nazi puppet state could win seats in the European Parliament for the first time.

Slovaks are among four countries voting Saturday in the Europe-wide vote, which finishes Sunday.

Polls favor the leftist Smer-Social Democracy party, the senior member of Slovakia's current coalition government to win the most votes.

Polls suggest People's Party Our Slovakia, a far-right party that has 14 seats in Slovakia's parliament, will win seats in the European legislature for the first time.

Party members use Nazi salutes, blame Roma for crime, consider NATO a terror group and want the country out of the alliance and the European Union.

The election reflects a continental struggle between nationalists who want to wrest power back from the EU and moderates who want to make the EU stronger.

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8 a.m.

Voters in Slovakia, Malta, Latvia and the Czech Republic are casting ballots in European Parliament elections.

The stakes for the European Union are especially high in this year's elections, which are taking place over four days and involve all 28 EU nations.

Many predict nationalists and far-right groups will gain ground. They would try to use a larger presence in the legislature to claw back power from the EU for their national governments.

More moderate parties want to cement closer ties among countries in the EU.

Britain, Ireland and the Netherlands have already voted. The Czech Republic started voting Friday and continues Saturday. Slovakia, Malta and Latvia are holding their European Parliament elections Saturday — and all the other nations vote Sunday.

Results are expected Sunday night.

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For more news from The Associated Press on the European Parliament elections go to https://www.apnews.com/EuropeanParliament

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