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Poland's ruling right-wing PiS party tops in EU polls

[WARSAW] Poland's governing right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS) won European elections, near-complete official results showed on Monday, with its leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski urging a wider victory in the autumn general election.

The PiS took 45.56 per cent of the vote to win 27 of Poland's 51 seats in the European Parliament compared with 38.30 per cent and 22 seats for the liberal European Coalition, according to official results from 99.31 percent of polling stations.

The progressive Spring party took 6.04 per cent for three seats while the far-right Confederation group failed to cross the five-percent threshold required to enter the European parliament.

"We won but with a result that should push us to one thing: to work hard before the parliamentary elections this fall," said Kaczynski at PiS campaign headquarters in Warsaw.

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This is the first time the PiS has topped the European polls.

The party, in power since the 2015 general election, campaigned on a platform of generous social spending that saw its prime minister push hikes in pensions and child benefits through the Polish parliament.

- 'Polexit' threat -

The PiS campaign was also marked by strong rhetoric against gay rights and a refusal to honour Jewish claims for the compensation of properties lost during the Holocaust.

The government has stoked tensions with the EU by introducing a string of controversial reforms that Brussels says pose a threat to judicial independence, the rule of law and ultimately to democracy.

Warsaw has since backed out of some of the legislation, but the opposition is still concerned that the clash with Brussels could pave the way to a "Polexit".

Kaczynski has long been a fierce critic of the strong brand of EU federalism championed by the bloc's powerhouses Germany and France.

He is among a growing number of populist leaders in the EU advocating a reform agenda for the bloc that favours national sovereignty over further integration and federalism.

PiS Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Friday ruled out teaming up with France's far-right National Rally but said his party was "ready to talk" with Italian and Spanish anti-immigrant and ultra-nationalist parties vying to enter the European Parliament.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen said earlier this month that her "hand was always extended" to the PiS, but Kaczynski has rejected any such cooperation due to her party's links to Moscow.

- Strong opposition -

The European Coalition (KE) -- an alliance of liberal, centrist and leftist opposition and extra-parliamentary parties led by the main Civic Platform (PO) opposition party -- called its Sunday result "promising" ahead of the autumn general elections.

"We've proven that we want and are able to make the journey together and that is the key to victory," said PO leader Grzegorz Schetyna, the coalition's main architect of the coalition.

The progressive liberal-left Spring party, created just four months ago by Robert Biedron, an openly gay former MP and mayor, scored a weak third-spot finish.

"We got it, we are the third political force in the country," Biedron told supporters on Sunday night as exit polls suggested his party would hold three seats in the European Parliament.

Turnout tallied at 45.61 per cent, double the 2014 result where only 23.83 per cent of voters cast ballots.

AFP