[Photo: Marine Le Pen, France’s far-right National Front political party made huge gains in EU elections]
Europe’s leaders have begun debating the victory of euroskeptic and radical parties, such as the right-wing in France. Wrangling over the EU’s top job has begun, exposing a rift within Germany’s coalition government.
The EPP’s top candidate, former Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker, was quick to say he was the front runner for the job as EU commission president.
But his opponent, the Social Democrat’s candidate, EU Parliament President Martin Schulz, pointed to his party’s 7 percent gain in Germany and said he believed he had a chance to win over a majority in the new legislature to secure backing for the EU commission’s top job.
The wrangling over Europe’s top job has already begun to take its toll on Germany’s coalition government, where the Social Democrats are teamed up with Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU, which backs Juncker’s candidacy.
Boost for euroskeptics and radicals
Euroskeptics and radicals are set to fill one fifth of the seats in the EU legislature.
In Britain the euroskeptic UKIP became the largest party winning almost 30 percent of the vote, five percent ahead of Prime Minister David Cameron’s conservatives.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage called the outcome “the most extraordinary result in British politics for 100 years.”
France, meanwhile, is in shock over the far-right National Front becoming the country’s strongest party. Its leader, Marine Le Pen, has already demanded fresh national elections, as France’s ruling Socialist Party was trailing in third place.
Right-wing and anti-immigrant parties also made significant gains in Austria, Finland, Denmark and Sweden.
In Greece, the far-right “Golden Dawn” party won 9 percent, but the far-left SYRIZA party which had campaigned fiercely against austerity measures, was leading ahead of the ruling conservatives
Euroskeptics, however, were handed defeats in two of the EU’s largest countries – Italy and the Netherlands.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s centre-left Democratic Party appeared to have won by a landslide, and the Dutch far-right, anti-immigrant Party for Freedom led by Geert Wilders unexpectedly lost support to land in third place.
European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso has called on pro-EU groups to come together.
Voter turnout exposes East West divide
Voter turnout was higher than expected across the EU, at just over 43 percent. In Germany turnout was up by five percent compared to 2009, reaching 48 percent.
But in eastern Europe, where ruling parties in Bulgaria, Croatia and the Czech Republic saw a dramatic decline in support, turnout remained low.
Slovak voters were the least enthusiastic about the EU: Only 13 percent of the country’s electorate bothered to cast their ballots.
Around 400 million people across the 28-nation EU were eligible to vote. Final results are expected to trickle in over the coming days.
The gains for euroskeptic and far right parties are likely to see calls for changes in EU policy in areas ranging from border control and immigration to the trade and investment agreement being negotiated with the United States.
rg/av (dpa, Reuters, AFP)