26 May 2014

Far-right wins big in European elections

Far-right and anti-Europe parties claim major victories across the continent – is this the turning of the tide?

France, the Netherlands and Hungary have joined the UK in giving formidable backing to anti-establishment parties, as eurosceptic and far-right movements made huge gains in yesterday’s European elections.

Centre-left and centre-right parties will remain the dominant force in European politics by keeping control of about 70 per cent of the 751 seats in the European Parliament, but the number of eurosceptics will more than double.

In France, Marine Le Pen‘s anti-immigration and anti-euro National Front won a quarter of the vote, in what French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called a political “earthquake”.

The people have spoken loud and clear Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front party

The extreme-right Jobbik party came second in Hungary while the anti-immigration far right People’s Party topped came top in Denmark.

Far-right and eurosceptic parties have made big gains in the European elections

Closer to home, the UK Independence Party clinched 27.5 per cent of the vote and 23 MEPs, pushing Labour and the Conservatives into a tight fight for second place while the Liberal Democrats saw the biggest decline among the major parties, winning just one seat.

Fewer than half of the 388 million Europeans eligible to vote did so, leading to a turnout of just 43.1 per cent – only just above the low of 43 per cent posted in 2009.

Disenchantment grows

Le Pen’s party beat President Francois Hollande‘s ruling Socialists into third place in France, after recording a big rise in the ballot to 24.95 per cent from 6.3 per cent in 2009.

“The people have spoken loud and clear,” Le Pen said. “They no longer want to be led by those outside our borders, by EU commissioners and technocrats who are unelected.”

Far-right and eurosceptic parties have made big gains in the European elections

Ukip’s leader Nigel Farage hailed the result as a “historic” win for his party, claiming it is now the “third force” in British politics.

The party took a surprise seat in Scotland as Labour was pushed back to 25.4 per cent and the Conservatives 24 per cent, while the Liberal Democrats saw their previous nine-seat tally slashed by eight.

In Germany and Italy, two of Europe’s biggest countries by population, the pro-European centrist parties took the bulk of the votes, although Germany returned its first neo-Nazi MEP from the far-right National Democratic party of Germany.

Far-right and eurosceptic parties have made big gains in the European elections

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s supporters won over 35 per cent of the ballot, claiming the biggest victory for any centre-left party in the country and winning a strong mandate for economic reforms.

In the Netherlands, the eurosceptic and anti-Islam party run by Geert Wilders – the Eurosceptic Dutch Freedom Party – performed below expectations but still finished joint second behind the pro-European opposition party.

Far-right and eurosceptic parties have made big gains in the European elections

In Belgium, a party that wants to dissolve the country was the main winner. The New Flemish Alliance won about 80 per cent of votes.

The pro-European Civic Platform won a third of votes cast in Poland, but the eurosceptic New Right did better than predicted by winning 7.1 per cent.

But going against the grain, voters in Spain largely backed pro-European parties, while giving strong support to anit-austerity left-wing parties. Spain’s ruling Popular Party and the opposition Socialist Party ran each other close but have lost out to parties making the most of discontent at austerity policies pushed by other European countries.