(AFP) - France's far-right National Front stormed European Parliament
polls as eurosceptic parties in several countries served up a harsh
reality check for the EU on Sunday that sent shockwaves across the
bloc and beyond.
Parliament's own projections showed the extent of the anti-EU
breakthrough, with eurosceptic parties set to win 129 seats in the
National Front (FN) won around 25 percent of the vote in France,
according to exit polls, leading the race and easily beating the
centre-right UMP on 20 percent.
Francois Hollande's Socialists were humbled with just 15 percent.
confirmed, it would be the highest ever national vote garnered by the
anti-immigration, anti-EU party led by Marine Le Pen who has promised
to shake up the country and the EU.
is a historic score. We are now the first party in France," FN
vice-president Florian Philippot said as senior Socialist minister
Segolene Royal acknowledged that the far-right's victory was "a
shock on a global scale."
projections put the centre-right European People's Party as the
single largest group in the new European assembly with 211 seats,
ahead of the Socialists with 193. They held 274 and 196 seats in the
outgoing parliament, respectively.
ALDE Liberals group would be third with 74 seats, ahead of the Greens
at 58 and the left GUE/NGL with 47.
was better news for the pro-EU camp in Germany where Chancellor
Angela Merkel's conservative party won 36 percent of the vote, while
its coalition partner, the centre-left Social Democrats, scored 27.5
even in the EU's most powerful member state, the nay-sayers were not
polls showed the Alternative for Germany (AfD), which calls for the
dissolution of the euro, with 6.5 percent of the vote, putting it
above the threshold needed to get seats in the European Parliament
just a year after the party was formed.
Legitimacy problem -
addition to how the parties fare, a key issue was the final turnout
figures after participation hit a record low 43 percent in 2009.
only a marginal increase to 43.11 percent, europhiles still hailed
the turnout as a historic turning point since voting numbers have
fallen in each successive election since the first poll in 1979.
many of those voters came out to support anti-euro and
anti-immigration parties who had tapped into growing voter
frustration with the EU, saying Brussels has too much power and does
Britain, the eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP) led by Nigel
Farage -- a party without a single seat in the national parliament --
set the scene on Thursday with a major breakthrough in local council
polls, and were leading in early results on Sunday night in the
polls in Denmark also suggested that the anti-immigrant Danish
People's Party was headed for victory with 23 percent of the vote.
of economic crisis which pushed unemployment to record levels and
hugely unpopular austerity policies has clearly left Europe's cosy
centre-right, centre-left co-dominion badly exposed.
inroads made by the anti-EU and radical parties have stoked concern
they could hold Parliament hostage, working against the EU from
within, but analysts say such fears may be overdone.
EPP and Socialists would hold about 400 seats in the new assembly of
751 and traditionally the two groups have worked together for much of
the time and should be able to continue to do so, they said.
anti-EU and radical parties will have most impact at the national
level and not in the European Parliament, said Erik Nielsen of
Italy's UniCredit bank.
said the "relatively strong showing of nationalists is a
disturbing sign of many people feeling disenfranchised" by
globalisation, especially mass immigration but the EU was the best
place to address those concerns.
Democratic deficit -
by mounting hostility to the Brussels bureaucracy, which is seen as
aloof, EU political leaders have worked hard to correct a so-called
the first time, the five main groups in parliament named candidates
to be the next head of the powerful European Commission and sent them
out on the campaign trail.
also organised televised debates between the candidates, exposing
them to the harsh light of public questioning.
up the hopes of reconnecting with the bloc's 500 million people, a
giant banner hung at EU headquarters in Brussels read: "This
time it's different -- Your vote counts."
have their doubts, however.
European Parliament's bid to politicise and personalise the vote has
not worked," said Jean-Dominique Giuliani of the Robert Schuman
eastern Europe, the Ukraine crisis and fears of a resurgent Russia
appear to have bolstered the attraction of EU ties and the security
Lithuania, 44-year-old civil servant Jurate Kiserauske said the EU
"is our only salvation and future. If we are not there, we would
not remain where we are but we would return back to Russia, to the