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Centrists Losing Ground In EU Parliamentary Elections; Big Win For Hungary's Anti-Immigration Fidesz Party; Greek PM Calls For Snap Elections After Poor Results; Italy's Far-Right Leader Salvini Looks To Make Gains; European Electron Outcome Is A Blow To Macron's Vision For EU; Big Gains For The Pro-Environment Greens Party; Eickhout: Will Join Coalition That Delivers On Climate, Social Justice; Far-Right Winning Big In Italian EU Elections; EU Elections Results Come In Against Brexit Backdrop; Trump In Japan For State Visit; Trump To Meet With Emperor & Abe During State Visit; Trump Tweets About North Korea During Japan Visit. Aired 7-7:45p ET

Aired May 26, 2019 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:00:35] MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Results coming in from Europe's parliamentary election, where fringe parties are taking a slice out of the center, the far-right and left making gains against the establishment. Hundreds of millions of people were eligible to vote and we are hearing turnout was the highest in two decades.

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Michael Holmes here at the CNN Center.

HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Hala Gorani. Michael, we're seeing all sorts of very interesting results here throughout the continent. In Hungary, the party of anti-immigration populist Viktor Orban has won big with more than 52% of the vote.

In Greece, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is called for snap elections after his party's poor showing. The opposition conservative party New Democracy is coming in first at 34%.

We're still waiting for Italy's official numbers. But, the far-right Nationalist Leader, Matteo Salvini is feeling pretty good about his situation, tweeting this won (ph) sense first party in Italy, thank you. Lots of gains for the Euroskeptics, but also for the Greens who are on track to become the fourth largest party in the European Parliament. The grand coalition that compromises the center-left and center-right has lost seats. Down some 70 seats. Not a good showing for them.

Now, we have reporter across Europe. Erin McLaughlin is in Brussels. Atika Shubert in Berlin, Melissa Bell in Paris, Barbie Nadeau, Rome and Nina Dos Santos in Southampton, England, where Nigel Farage's Brexit Party has its headquarters.

Let's start with Erin McLaughlin. So we're seeing these numbers change, more and more incrementally it has to be said, but what are the latest projections here in terms of the European Parliament and which parties have gained and lost seats.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We have received the final projection of the evening. These numbers could change in the coming days slightly, but this is kind of giving us at this point an overall picture. The headline here, the so-called grand coalition, which is compromised of the center-right and center-left parties, has lost its majority for the first time.

And this is significant, especially when you consider that between 2014 and 2019, about 74% of all legislation that went through the parliament, went through because of this coalition. And now, these leaders, we heard from Frans Timmermans, the leader of the S&D, Manfred Weber, the leader of the EPP, they both spoke to the media, following these results acknowledging that they're going to have to start looking to build a new coalition. And a direction they'll be looking in is most likely the ALDE, the Liberals, which also includes French President Emmanuel Macron's enmarch list.

They did very well tonight, increasing the number of their seats by 39 as did the Greens party. The pro-EU Greens party, which makes climate change the center of their campaign. They increased their seats by sum 15.

Also seeing strong gains by some of the Euroskeptic parties. The EFDD grouping, which includes Nigel Farage's Brexit Party, as well as the EFDD out of Germany, they increased their seats sum 11. But still, the overwhelming majority within parliament is compromised of pro-EU groupings, which is significant.

The other big number of the night, Hala, voter turnout at a record 50.5%, the highest it's been since 1994. And that's significant, because ever since 1979, when the first year they held these parliamentary elections, voter turnout has declined and declined steadily. In 2014, it was at 42%. Now, it's at 50.5%, which is really being seen as a victory for -- by EU officials tonight, who really see that as a metric of voter apathy.

GORANI: Thank you, Erin McLaughlin. Let's go to Atika Shubert in Berlin with the latest on what was a very good showing for the Greens and a retreat for the chancellor's party.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, a very good showing for them, more than 20% according to the latest exit polls. I mean, that's a tremendous gain. But what we have seen is that you're right, for the sent -- for the Christian Democrats, even though they won the most votes overall, it was still a terrible loss by them, and the only party that did even worse were the Social Democrats, who had a historic low.

[19:05:13] So the center-left and the center-right, both looking very weak at this point. And what's happened is that voters have gone to the fringes, while some voters, many voters appear to have gone to the Greens, there were also quite a few that went to the far-right alternative for Germany, the AfD, but they couldn't seem to have broken through that 10% barrier. So they did gain -- made some modest gains, but not as much as they made in the last national election.

And the reason why we're seeing these kinds of numbers is because the number one issue this election was climate change. This according to national broadcaster, ARD. They polled before the election and afterwards and this is the same thing voters said, the climate crisis was the number one reason that they went to vote. You could even say this is something like the Greta effect, after Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teen climate activist, she's inspired tens of thousands of protesters, especially here in Germany, and there was a huge push to mobilize voters, and that seems to have affected young voters in particular.

According to ZDF, the national broadcaster, 33% of those in the exit poll under the age of 30 voted for the Green party. So that youth quake definitely having an effect here in Germany.

GORANI: Thank you, Atika. Melissa Bell in Paris. It was kind of presented as a duel between the President Macron and the far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was, Hala. I think and perhaps more in France than in any other European countries tonight, there was this very clear battle between, on one hand, a Macronists a pro- European liberal vision for the future. Remember, this is a man who came in, obliterated the political landscape, and we saw how much traditional parties suffered here in France, tonight in the European vote, who presented himself as a champion of Europe.

He was the man who stop the populist wave, you'll remember, and he was going to breathe new life into a European Union that was struggling under the weight of its many recent crises.

Tonight, he has not achieved what he hoped to do in his first electoral test since 2017. His party came in the second that is according now to official but partial results. Marine Le Pen, now on about 24%, her party, on 24% Emmanuel Macron's on 21.

That is the substantial defeat for a man who had hoped to be able to reinvent Europe and to bring some sense of new enthusiasm to an old project. What -- and Marine Le Pen appears to have achieved tonight, Hala, is really feeding off that anger that we've seen so much on the streets of France these last few months in the shape of the (INAUDIBLE) protest, a protest vote against Emmanuel Macron. She presented it very much as a referendum on him on and his policies and his person, his presidency.

And tonight, 24% of the electorate in these European elections appeared to have chosen for populist far-right party, Hala?

GORANI: All right. Melissa, we'll see you a little bit later.

Joining me now is Bas Eickhout, a Dutch member of the European Parliament. He is also a co-leader of the Greens campaign for the European elections. Thanks for being with us.

BAS EICKHOUT, DUTCH MEMBER, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: Thank you. GORANI: So, you must be very pleased this evening with the result of the Greens, especially in countries likes Germany. How did you do it in your country?

EICKHOUT: We, in the Netherlands also polled around 11%. So, also a big gain coming from 7 to 11. So, if you look across the board, the Greens are winning and yes that makes a good evening, absolutely.

GORANI: Now, as the populist movements are also advancing, although perhaps not as much as they themselves had hoped.

EICKHOUT: Well, I think the entire mantra over there is going to be a big rise of the populist. I don't think we've seen that. Of course, they are increasing their force, but it's not giving that big wave that some people feared. And I think well on top of that, it's going to be very difficult to them. Until now, they were in three different political groups in the European Parliament and it doesn't look like they will do it differently the next time. So, their forces are also not united. So, I think that also weakens their bid.

GORANI: But what we are seeing is the retreat of the centrist parties, I mean the traditionally, the big coalition groups in this parliament. That means that the European voters are telling the leaders in Brussels something. And what are they telling them?

EICKHOUT: That they're asking for change, very clearly. I mean, it's that the centrist parties are losing their majority, for the first time ever, that since the existence of the European Parliament, I think to be very honest, it's good news.

GORANI: Why?

EICKHOUT: It is good news that they, who have been governed Europe for all of these decades, that they are now losing their central powers and that we are now expecting some changes in policies. And then, of course, the big question is what kind of changes? Well, they will invite the Greens at the negotiation table and we will make very clear that the voters, they want a tougher action on climate change from Europe. They want a more social Europe. They want that Europe is fighting for its democracy, which is at stake in some of our countries.

[19:10:04] And these issues, where we're campaigning on, and all the countries, we see that we are being rewarded for that message.

GORANI: Would you join a coalition?

EICKHOUT: We are only joining a coalition when they are really giving a new program of the European Commission, which is delivering on climate, social justice, and on democracy. So for us, it's really about, OK let's negotiate, let's see what the new commission can do. But if it's going to be same old, same old, we're not going to join.

GORANI: And -- but you could be kingmaker here, couldn't you?

EICKHOUT: Well secretly, I think we are. Because if you look at the numbers, there's maybe a tight majority with the centrist parties including the liberals but we all know that that is a very insecure majority. So they will probably need the Greens. And that means that we are the king or the queenmaker.

GORANI: You had the -- of course, I should have said that. You had 52. Where will you be now?

EICKHOUT: Well, the polls give us now slightly below 70, but of course there might be some new groups teaming up with us. So in the end, we expect to end up above 70 seats.

GORANI: OK. And they are just a reminder our viewers 751.

EICKHOUT: That's true (ph).

GORANI: Members of parliament, you need 376 for a majority, very, very far from that. You need to find partners here.

EICKHOUT: Yes, don't know, absolutely. We're not going to do it on our own. And we are fully aware of that.

GORANI: Yes sir.

EICKHOUT: But I think it's -- what is very important is that the other parties, who are use, you know, the centrist parties who are used to do their own bid, they will now need the Greens. And the Greens will really demand change. And that will be something new for them.

GORANI: What language do you all speak together?

EICKHOUT: Usually it is in English.

GORANI: English is really just the --

EICKHOUT: It is --

GORANI: -- most dominant language by a mile.

EICKHOUT: Yes, it's the language that everyone speaks, the easiest at least.

GORANI: Bas Eickhout, thanks very much.

EICKHOUT: You're welcome.

GORANI: Appreciate you being with us of the Greens.

And the far-right is celebrating a big victory in the European Parliament reelection in Italy. Today, the European Union says the Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini's hardline nationalist party is leading with 29% of the vote. This is what he posted on his Twitter page. "Thank you, first party in Italy".

And Barbie Nadeau joins me now. Talk to us a little bit about what's happening in Italy here. 29% of the vote. What does this mean when it comes to Italy's relationship with its big European partners like Germany and France?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I'm guessing that Germany and France aren't quite as happy as Matteo Salvini is tonight. Because he's gone out tonight to say thank you to his supporters and to make good on his promise that he's going to change Europe from the inside. And it's going to be hard to do that with his small number of seats.

But his intention, very much, is to start working on this change of Europe, which is very, very much in contrast to what your last guest said, talking about democracy and social justice. Matteo Salvini wants to keep that hardline, closed borders, a little bit more nationalism. All the things we heard him talking about in his 200 campaign rallies over the course of the last several months.

He has the intention to bring his followers the change that he promised, Hala. And it will be very, very hard for him to do that.

GORANI: All right. Thanks very much, Barbie Nadeau.

Anand Menon joins me now live from London. He's the director of the award-winning Brexit think tank called the UK in a Changing Europe. Thanks for being with us.

What's the big takeaway for you this evening, Anand, as you watch these projections come in?

ANAND MENON, DIRECTOR, UK IN A CHANGING EUROPE INITIATIVE: Well, I mean, I suppose at the European level, the takeaway is fragmentation. That's to say the main two parties, the center-left and the center- right are losing votes to both the right and the left, including the notably the Greens. Here in the UK, we've got a spectacular election night with both the big parties getting walloped all over the country and the governing party, the conservatives down to about 10% of the vote.

GORANI: So, as you look at some of these populist movements and these Euro skeptic performances. What I've been hearing throughout the night from experts is, they did well, they did it, this was not a sweep though. It wasn't massively better than expected. I mean, if the projections hold, Nigel Farage's Brexit Party will have 24 seats, which is what you keep had five years ago.

MENON: Absolutely. And, you know, you have to put these things into perspective. Equally, I think Matteo Salvini in Italy at one point was hoping to get over 30% of the vote, he was just under at 29, so you've got to put these into context.

Nevertheless, there is an obvious challenge to the ruling parties inside the European Parliament from both left and right. And this fragmentation, I think, is going to be the story of the European Parliament for the next five years. It will be harder to govern.

It will be harder to create stable majorities. You'll probably have a European Parliament that's a little bit more negative when in comes to free trade deals and signing free trade deals, because both the left and right are suspicious of those sorts of things. So this will change the dynamic quite significantly.

[19:15:02] GORANI: And what impact will it have on Brexit talks?

MENON: Well, it last several impacts, I suppose. Firstly, in this country, it's going to underline the level of polarization between those on the one hand that want to leave with no deal and those who actually want to stop Brexit. So that fight will get, even though it's hard to imagine, even more bitter.

And in the event that we do get some sort of Brexit deal, then we'll be dealing with a whole new European parliament, there I suspect we're going to find a lot harder to convince that it needs to sign off on a good trade deal with the United Kingdom because of that fragmentation I spoke about earlier.

GORANI: And of course, then there's also the question of the commission president here, Jean-Claude Juncker, outgoing, we have several names. That will make also a big difference when it comes to these Brexit negotiations, because that particular figure is an important one in all of this.

MENON: Absolutely. And I suppose the key figure here is the figure of Michel Barnier, who has been the Brexit negotiator for the European Union up until now. He is considered by many to be an outside favorite to become commission president. Because one of the things about the composition of the European Parliament is it doesn't seem like the European People's Party, the center-right party, is going to be strong enough to get its candidate (INAUDIBLE) through.

In that case, Barnier looks like a good option for many people. And of course, if he wins the European commission presidency, what you can expect is the European commission will stick with its rather legalistic technocratic approach to Brexit, that some even inside Jean-Claude Juncker's commission have started to criticize of late.

GORANI: All right. But what other approach is there to Brexit? I mean it's interesting that you should say legalistic and technocratic.

What other option do the Europeans have? The biggest sticking points are things that they can like the backstop, that they consider to be really vital to their union.

MENON: Well, I suppose in macro terms, looking beyond the backstop, what I would say is, there were two ways to approach the Brexit negotiations from the E.U. side. One was the way they have chosen, which is to look at the rule book and say, you can do this, but you can't do that, and it doesn't matter what sort of country you are. The other is to think more geostrategically if you like and say, OK, look, the U.K. is a leading partner when it comes to security, when it comes to military, it's a big economic power.

We need to be creative enough to find a way without sacrificing our core principles that the EU and the UK can continue to cooperate as closely as possible going forward. And I think under Barnier, it's been very much the former approach triumphing over the latter. But I still think that actually a little bit more creativity could've been shown and more thought given to the sort of imperatives of keeping the EU and the UK as close as possible.

GORANI: Anand Menon, thanks very much. Appreciate your time.

Stay with CNN for instant updates on this election. I'll be back later this hour for a full recap. Now back to Michael Holmes.

HOLMES: All right, Hala. Thanks so much. We'll check in with you then.

Meanwhile, we'll take a short break. When we come back, Donald Trump gearing up to meet Japan's new emperor, as his state visit continues. We'll be live for you in Tokyo, coming up after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:20:22] HOLMES: Let's update the European Parliamentary election for you. Centrist parties taking a beating. The latest vote count shows far-right candidates leading in France, Italy, and Hungry.

Exit polls suggest the Green Party also doing well. European officials reporting the heaviest turnout in 25 years. A lot of interest in this election.

Meanwhile, it is day three of the U.S. President's state visit to Japan. And in the coming hours, he is set to become the first foreign leader to meet with the country's new emperor. That royal pageantry coming one day after some lighter moments, including this one on Sunday, where Mr. Trump awarded a president's cup trophy to the winner of a sumo wrestling tournament.

All right, let's head out to Tokyo now, our Pamela Brown is there, joins us with the very latest. How do those you're speaking with see this trip is going for the President and what's coming up?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll tell you outwardly here in Tokyo, there is no sign of concern about the President's tweet yesterday on North Korea, downplaying North Korea's short-range missile testing. You saw Prime Minister -- the Prime Minister here, as well as President Trump taking selfies together, looking chummy, outwardly, they were at the sumo wrestling match yesterday.

But certainly, if you read the newspaper here, the Japan Times, it is on the front page that it could be unnerving for the Japanese people.

At the same time, though this trip is going on as planned, the President will be the first foreign leader to meet the newly crowned Emperor Naruhito. That will be happening shortly at the Imperial Palace. This is a big deal. It's an historic moment.

In fact, Prime Minister Abe has been telling the President when he visited the White House just a few weeks ago, just about how important this is. What a high honor it is for President Trump, saying it's even bigger than the President's trip back here to Japan next month for the G20. Now, analysts say that whoever was the U.S. president would be the person meeting -- be the first person meeting with the Emperor. But certainly, as we know, Prime Minister Abe has shown a shrewd ability, a skilled ability to cultivate his relationship with President Trump. So he's really been emphasizing to him just how big of a deal this is.

And we know through sources that President Trump has been getting briefed on meeting the Emperor and the proper etiquette surrounding that. He's been keenly interested. And he's flattered that he will be the first foreign leader to meet with him shortly, Michael.

HOLMES: All right Pam, thank you. Pamela Brown there in Tokyo for us.

Let's now go to New York and get some perspective from Jamie Metzl, senior fellow of the Atlantic Council and author of a new book, "Hacking Darwin: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Humanity". Sounds a little frightening, doesn't it?

All right, Jamie. Let's start with this remarkable tweet about the North Korean missile test that Pamela was referring to there. Let's put it up for people and have a look at this tweet. Because what it does, basically is just show people that he's -- here it is, "North Korea fired off some small weapons which disturbed some of my people and other but not me. I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promises to me".

We'll get with the rest of that tweet a little bit later. But what do you make of that? I mean, even his own national security adviser says they were risky. The Japanese want to take it to the UN as a violation of UN resolutions. And the President going, eh, me, not so much.

JAMIE METZL, SENIOR FELLOW, ATLANTIC COUCIL: Yes, this is really unimaginable on so many different levels. To say, it's just some small weapons when this is a violation of the very UN sanctions that the United States has championed for so many years. And to do that when in Japan, because, you don't need a long-range missile to drop a nuclear weapon on Japan, you need a short-range missile.

And so if it's OK for North Korea to fire these nuclear the -- I'm sorry, these short-range missiles in violation of UN sanctions, that really is a big threat for Japan. So why would he do this? Why would he say this?

Why would he side essentially with the murderous dictator of North Korea ahead of America's closest ally in Japan? It's really just unimaginable.

HOLMES: While in Japan.

METZL: Yes. No, it's crazy. And this is really serious stuff. I mean Japan's security, its national security, depends on its relationship with the United States.

The reason that Japan doesn't have its own nuclear weapons is partly historic, but partly because the U.S. has a nuclear security umbrella that extends over Japan.

[19:25:06] If Japan's biggest fear in the world is that the U.S. will cut a deal with North Korea that will leave Japan exposed, and this tweet, I think, exacerbates that fear.

HOLMES: Yes. I wanted to sort of move away from the missiles to a little bit of politics here, because just as extraordinary was the second part of that tweet. When we -- and we call that up again and show people that.

Now, this is the second part. He says, "I also smiled when Kim called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual, and worse". Misspelling Joe Biden in the first tweet, by the way. It was corrected in the second one. And then we had this response from the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders. Let's have a listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHUCK TODD, AMERICAN JOURNALIST: Can you explain why Americans should not be concerned that the President of the United States is essentially siding with a murderous authoritarian dictator over a former vice president in the United States?

SARAH SANDERS, PRESS SECRETARY, WHITE HOUSE: Chuck, the President is not siding with that, but I think that they agree in their assessment of former Vice President Joe Biden. Again, the President's focus in this process is the relationship he has and making sure we continue on the path towards denuclearization.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: And the thing with that, Jamie, I suppose it's -- you know, it's inviting, not just a foreign country, but a dictator to have an opinion about a potential political rival for Donald Trump. Again, what is the messaging?

METZL: Yes, Michael, we just need to call spade a spade. I mean this is disgusting, it's shameful, it's disgraceful to have the President of the United States side with a murderous dictator against an American, any American, let alone the former Vice President of the United States. It's unimaginable.

And our political culture here in the United States has been so denigrated by this President that sometimes disgraceful behaviors like this just pass us by. But let's pause for a second to think of what this means. And what does this say to people around the world, whether it's dictators of our allies, about what the United States stands for.

So we must do better, we have to hold our leaders to account. Because if we can't hold President Trump, President of the United States to account for siding with a murderous dictator, how are we going to hold dictators themselves to account? Whether it's Kim Jong-un or others. This is really just unbelievable.

HOLMES: Yes. And silence from Republicans, as well as usual, really then, you know, you can imagine what they would be say if President Obama did this with Kim Jong-un or another --

METZL: Yes.

HOLMES: -- dictator. I just can't imagine.

METZL: It's unimaginable but we have to get over this. This is not a partisan issue. This is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue for any president of the United States to side with a murderous dictator against an American, let alone a former Vice President, it's just unthinkable.

HOLMES: Yes. And that's right. Where's the outrage?

I did want to get from you just before we go, though. What would a successful trip look like for Donald Trump on this visit, apart from the optics, anything substantive on trade or policy? And of course, for Abe, it's important because he's got elections in July.

METZL: Yes. So the optics are certainly important. Being the first foreign leader to meet with the new Emperor, that's certainly a big deal. It's a very important issue for Japan.

And no big agreements are going to happen about which tra -- in the area of trade until after the July elections in Japan. So the key message that I hope President Trump will deliver is one of reassurance. I mean, there's a lot that's up in the air.

Nobody knows what the United States in many ways is going to do. But Japan is one of the closest allies to the United States. And the more that we can cement those ties and give Japan reassurance that America will stand by its side through thick and thin, as we have for many years, the better off we'll all be.

HOLMES: Yes, indeed. And for Japan, a short-range missile is not all that short because it can reach them. But Jamie, you're always a pleasure. Great to have you on.

METZL: Thanks Michael.

HOLMES: Can I get that book, as well.

All right, we're going to take a short break here. And when we come back, can centrists keep control of the European parliament? Not looking like it at the moment. We'll have the latest results from the EU elections, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:31:53] HOLMES: Welcome back to CNN TODAY, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes.

Time to update you on the top stories. We're still waiting on all the official election results. But the European Parliament does appear to be facing a shrinking center. Far-left and right parties making some significant gains. The European People's Party or Christian Democrats, hanging on to the most seats. U.S. President Donald Trump and the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet formally in the coming hours after Mr. Trump takes part in royal events with Japan's new emperor. On Sunday, the two leaders played golf, attended a sumo match and had a meal during Mr. Trump's state visit.

Iran's foreign minister said Iran had proposed signing a "Non- Aggression Pact" with its neighboring gulf countries and that that deal remains on the table, that's according to Iran's state-run news agency. The comments follow a meeting with his counterpart in Bagdad and come weeks after rising tensions between Iran and the U.S.

All right, returning to our top stories. The erosion of the center in the EU elections. Hala Gorani live in Brussels. Hala?

GORANI: Yes. And the erosion continues. According to official figures, the voter turnout across Europe was just over 50%, a significant uptick from 2014, when it was closer to 42%. So a lot more participation from voters. You mentioned the erosion of the center. Here are the overall results. So they keep getting updated. The Green party did very well and is on track to become the fourth largest party in parliament. So a much better score than five years ago. The European People's Party or the Christian Democrats in dark blue have the most seats, but they are in retreat quite significantly. That is the center we've been talking about. We're still awaiting official results from Germany and Italy.

Let's go live to Erin McLaughlin for more. Erin?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN: Yes, that's right, Hala. Big number headlining this evening I think is that voter turnout which you were mentioning. 50.5%. It's the first time in the history of these elections that voter turnout has actually gone up. It went up significantly by some 8 percentage points. The largest turnout since 1994.

And in conversations I was having building up to today, speaking to EU officials, they were really focusing on voter turnout. They're really worried about that declining trend that now seems to have suddenly been reversed. They're seeing it as a reflection of voter apathy seeing this as a reflection of Europeans being more interested in the workings of the European Parliament. Guy Verhofstadt a leader of the ALDE Group, saying Europe is back today, heralding that 50.5% figure.

And again as you mentioned, the other big topic of tonight is the erosion of the grand coalition, no longer in a majority. Collectively, the center-right and center-left parties lost some 71 seats, gaining in their place, the ALDE, the liberals, which includes French President Emmanuel Macron's list. That gained 90 -- 39 seats, rather, excuse me.

[19:35:13] And then the Greens, the pro-EU party with climate change really at the heart of their platform, gaining at 11 -- some 15 seats. And then you have the Euro skeptics also making gains as well, although we're waiting on the exact numbers of that alliance between the Deputy Prime Minister of Italy, Matteo Salvini and Marine Le Pen of the national rally. Marine Le Pen, according to French exit polls, gaining a seat on Emmanuel Macron's enmarch list, which really is seen as a victory at this point for Le Pen, even though she has lost seats compared to 2014. Hala?

GORANI: All right, Erin, thanks very much. To the UK now and the vote that wasn't meant to happen. Nina dos Santos joins us from Brexit Party headquarters in Southampton. It's a -- in fact a voting count center, not far from where Nigel Farage has his constituency. Talk to us about what we're expecting for the Brexit Party which is basically a rebranded UK in terms of seats.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Hala. Well actually what we're seeing here in Southampton's Civic Center is the final counting. We just had the speeches there, on the stage behind me, as you can see is about three liberal Democrat candidates, four Brexit Party candidates, that newly launched part of Nigel Farage. Mr. Farage here who's held the seat on this constituency, the largest constituency among these constituencies for the European Parliamentary likes in the country. He's held his since 1999 and helped to shape his Euroskeptic.

Well, it really was a wipe out here for the likes of the mainstream parties, the conservatives and labor. The main Euroskeptic conservative voice Daniel Hannan is on the stage behind me. He did managed to keep his seat, but he is a pretty lonely figure up there on the stage, alongside one other labor MP and one Green MP.

Now, Nigel Farage just a moment ago said that with all of these votes that they manage he's going constituencies like this, his newly launched Brexit Party is going to try and take its message to Westminster the next time we have an opportunity at the general election.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIGEL FARAGE, LEADER, BREXIT PARTY: If we don't leave on October 31st, then the scores you've seen for the Brexit Party today will be repeated in a general election and we are getting ready for it. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOS SANTOS: And in the meantime, what is also going to be agitating for, he made it very clear in his brief speech here on the stage is to try to use the expertise of some of the businesspeople who he has brought into the Brexit Party to try to shape those Brexit negotiations that the UK's holding with Brussels.

Now, technically, his party shouldn't really have the right to do that, but the reality is, is that they have commanded a much bigger voice to agitate both from Brussels and from the sidelines to Westminster. And with the shaky political landscape that we're seeing with the Conservative Party and Labor Party in disarray when it comes to Brexit and how voters have punished them this evening, Hala, that is a big risk for Tories like Daniel Hannan who is I said, is the only one alongside the other labor candidate who made it through this evening. Hala? GORANI: All right Nina, thanks very much. We'll see you a little bit later. Michael but for now, back to you with other stories.

HOLMES: All right, Hala Gorani, all of the team there in Brussels, long night, great work, thank you.

Well, the race to fill the role of British prime heats up just days after Theresa May resigned. There are now eight declared candidates eyeing number 10 Downing Street. Former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, no surprise there. And then the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

You've got the former Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, former leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, who quit the cabinet last week, you may remember. And Esther McVey, a former Work and Pension secretary. They're in favor of leaving the EU with or without a Brexit deal, while Rory Stewart Britain's International Development secretary, Matt Hancock and Michael Gove are all proponents of reaching a Brexit deal. It ain't over yet.

Still ahead on CNN TODAY, flooding, tornadoes, high winds, more severe weather hitting the U.S. state of Oklahoma. We'll have an update on the damage there when we come back.

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[19:42:03] HOLMES: All right. I want to update you now on the European elections. The votes still being counted. Apparent far- right victories, though, in France, Italy, Hungary, and centrists are the ones losing ground. The European Union says more than half of all eligible voters participated in the election. That is the largest voter turnout in 25 years.

In the U.S. state of Oklahoma, an EF-3 tornado touched down late Saturday in El Reno, the twister tearing through a town, destroying a hotel and mobile community, mobile home community. Have a look at that damage there. Oklahoma's chief medical examiner reports six fatalities attributed to the ongoing flooding and severe weather. Hospitals in the state reporting 92 people injured. A state of emergency remains in effect for all 77 counties there.

Also, a powerful earthquake in northern Peru to tell you about. One person killed, others injured. The magnitude 8.0 quake struck early on Sunday morning, damaging buildings, homes, and roads. The quake could be felt as far away as the capital of Lima, but also in Venezuela and Ecuador. At least 11 people injured in Peru, seven in Ecuador.

Thanks for watching, everyone. I'm Michael Holmes. Stay tuned now. "World Sport" is coming up with Patrick Snell and you have a big interview.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: We do. We have French winner of the Indy 500 and a great story from Italian Football Atalanta applying for the Champions League. Atalanta.

HOLMES: I want to hear about the (INAUDIBLE).

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