Historic gains for far-right in European elections
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The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) came out on top in the European Parliament elections Sunday, but the night belonged to eurosceptic parties, chief among them France’s National Front (FN), who achieved big gains across the continent.
Eurosceptic and far-right parties won the vote in several of the EU’s 28 member states, including France, the UK and Denmark, and are set to take around 130 of the European Parliament’s 751 seats.
The centre-right EPP will have the most seats in the new parliament, with 211, ahead of the Socialists on 193, followed by the Liberals (74 seats), Greens (58) and the far-left GUE/NGL group (47).
Voter turnout stayed at 43 percent, the same as 2009’s record low.
EPP leader Jean-Claude Juncker claimed his party had the right to choose the next President of the European Commission, based on the election results. Although the head of the Commission is chosen by EU heads of state in the European Council, their choice must be validated by the European Parliament.
The far-right National Front, headed by Marine Le Pen, scored more votes than any other party in France, giving it more than 20 of the country’s 74 seats in the new parliament.
France’s Prime Minister Manual Valls called the FN’s victory a political “earthquake”. He and President François Hollande are due to hold a crisis meeting on Monday morning.
The centre-right UMP won a projected 20 European Parliament seats, while it was a disastrous night for Hollande’s Socialists, who will send just 12 MEPs to the new parliament. Reporting from the ruling party's headquarters, FRANCE 24's Nicholas Rushworth said that the results were seen as "horrific".
Despite a sharp decline in support, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc came out on top in Germany with 35.3 percent of the vote, down from a 23-year-high of 41.5 percent in last year's federal election, but still a clear victory. The centre-left Social Democrats, her coalition partners, took 27.3 percent.
The anti-euro Alternative for Germany won seats for the first time, with 7 percent.
Along with France’s National Front, one of the election’s biggest stories was the success of the nationalist UKIP party in the UK, which is set to come out on top among British voters with Labour in second.
UKIP led all parties with 27.5 per cent of the vote. Labour was second with 25.4 per cent. The governing Conservatives collected 24 per cent of the vote.
With results declared in 10 of the UK’s 12 voting regions, UKIP had secured 23 EU parliamentary seats. The party won 13 seats at the last European election in 2009 but has no MPs in the national parliament at Westminster.
A victory for UKIP would be the first time in over a century that a British election has not been won by either of the two mainstream parties, Labour and Conservatives.
Speaking in the English port city of Southampton after his own re-election, Nigel Farage, UKIP's leader, hailed his party's success as historic.
"The people's army of UKIP have spoken tonight and delivered just about the most extraordinary result that has been seen in British politics for 100 years. We will go on next year to a general election with a targeting strategy and I promise you this: You haven't heard the last of us."
Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives look set to be the country’s biggest losers, along with their Liberal Democrat coalition partners.
New Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s centre-left Democratic Party led emphatically in what was considered in Italy his "first electoral test" since he took power in February, FRANCE 24's Seema Gupta reported from Rome. The early results suggested Renzi’s party had collected 41.4 percent of the vote.
Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment 5-Star movement – which tried to “tap into a frustration that a lot of Italians feel with the recession, unemployment, and corrupt politicians” – came in second, while former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party lagged in third place.
Spain’s two main political parties, the conservative Popular Party and the Socialist Party, lost major ground to smaller parties, with a particular showing for the new left-wing party Podemos, which was born out Spain’s grassroots “Indignant” movement.
In Greece, official projections put the leftist eurosceptic Syriza party first with 26.7 percent. The ruling conservative New Democracy was at 22.8 percent, reflecting popular anger at harsh spending cuts adopted in recent years to meet the terms of Athens's EU/IMF bailout programme.
The extreme right Golden Dawn party was third with 9.4 percent, despite the fact that its leader and several lawmakers are in jail, pending trial.
In the Netherlands, however, the right-wing eurosceptic Party for Freedom dropped a seat from five to four but still finished second overall. Its outspoken leader, Geert Wilders, said in a statement his party looked forward to working with Marine Le Pen.
The ruling Fidesz party swept to victory with more than 51 per cent of the vote on a turnout below 30 per cent. The extreme right Jobbik party, widely accused of racism and anti-Semitism, overtook the Socialists to finish second.
For the first time, the country’s anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party took the most votes in an election – but it did not win the most seats. Although considered to have close ties with the extreme right, the party has rejected any collaboration with France’s National Front, which it regards as anti-Semitic and homophobic.
With 95 percent of votes counted, the People’s Party had gained three seats for a total of four.
The main government party, the Social Democrats, retained their five seats to remain the biggest party.
In Austria the right-wing Freedom Party made big gains, coming in third with 20 percent of the vote.
See our liveblog below for coverage of the day's events as they unfolded.