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EU voters take a turn to the right
BayBak, Azerbaijan | 1473 days ago | Sunday, 7th June , 2009 , 23:21 [pm] | International
|.|| Europe’s mainstream centre-left parties were heading for humiliation tonight as four days of voting in the EU’s biggest ever election concluded with disastrous results for social democrats.
According to projections for national rounds of the European parliament election across several of the EU’s 27 states, voters
Europe’s mainstream centre-left parties were heading for humiliation tonight as four days of voting in the EU’s biggest ever election concluded with disastrous results for social democrats.
According to projections for national rounds of the European parliament election across several of the EU’s 27 states, voters also cut their support for centre-right Christian Democrats, who nonetheless notched up handsome victories in several key EU states.
In Germany, which returned 99 of the parliament’s 736 seats, the Social Democrats (SPD), the junior partner in the coalition, sunk to an all-time low with less than 22% of the vote, according to TV exit polls. The result replicated a dismal performance five years ago that all the opinion polls had predicted would not be repeated.
“The result is significantly worse than we expected,” said Franz Muentefering, the SPD chairman. “This is a difficult evening.”
In Austria, the chancellor and leader of the Social Democrats, Werner Faymann, led his party to its worst ever election result, with just over 23%, according to Austrian TV projections.
In both countries, the Christian Demo-crats won comfortably, with Angela ÂMerkel’s Christian Democrats and her Bavarian CSU allies taking almost 39%, albeit five points down on five years ago. Austria’s Christian democrats, or People’s party, were comfortable winners, with about 30%, though also three points down.
But far-right parties and anti-EU mavericks in Austria mustered more than one third of the vote between them, with the anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim Freedom party doubling its vote to 13%.
The misery for the centre-left, exemplified by Germany’s SPD and Labour’s nightmare in the UK, was likely to deepen as results trickled in from other big EU states such as France, Italy, and Poland, while Spain’s Socialist government also faced losses. President Nicolas Sarkozy, of France, Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and Donald Tusk, prime minister of Poland, all on the centre-right, all looked to be coasting to comfortable victories.
Tusk’s main opposition is further to the right.
France’s bickering Socialists and Italy’s riven centre-left were expected to perform poorly, while Spain’s centre-left government faced losses amid the highest unemployment in Europe.
With the jobless numbers soaring amid the worst economic crisis in the lifetimes of European voters, the centre-left is clearly failing to benefit politically in Âcircumstances that might be expected to boost its support.
In the Netherlands on Thursday, in the first of the four-day election marathon, the Labour party, junior partner in the government, also took a hammering, losing 11 points to come third and failing for the first time to lead in at least one of the country’s four big cities.
If the social democrats in the big countries faced a bout of soul-searching pessimism tonight, many of the smaller EU countries offered little consolation to them.
The opposition centre-right in Ireland also notched up gains while the Fianna FÃ¡il government performed wretchedly. The opposition right in Hungary anticipated a landslide victory against a discredited Socialist government.
Crumbs of comfort for the centre-left came from Portugal, Greece, Malta and possibly the Czech Republic, where the recently deposed centre-right prime minister, Mirek TopolÃ¡nek, was the butt of weekend ribaldry in Prague after being exposed naked by paparazzi pictures of a party at Berlusconi’s Sardinia villa. It remained to be seen whether Berlusconi’s partying and marital breakdown would affect the election results in Italy.
The two extreme right parties in Austria did well, with 18% between them, similar to the triumph in the Netherlands of Geert Wilders’ Freedom party.
The German Social Democrat leader, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said yesterday it was “shameful” that a traditionally tolerant country should vote for the anti-immigrant and Muslim-baiting Wilders.
But analysts stated that the protest votes and victories for mavericks could also be ascribed to a lacklustre election campaign in which leaders of key countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and the other big member states failed to project any persuasive pro-European visions in the midst of the most worrying economic crisis ever experienced by voters.
Today was the big election day, with 18 of the 27 staging ballots as well as Italy voting for the second day.
Britain and the Netherlands kicked off the voting marathon on Thursday, with a further five countries following on Friday and Saturday.
While pollsters expect the balance of power in the new parliament, 49 seats smaller than the outgoing assembly, to remain similar, there should also be stronger contingents of extremists and eurosceptics on the fringes.
The four-day vote was the biggest ever for the parliament, with 375 million voters entitled to choose from more than 10,000 candidates for 736 seats.
Hans-Gert PÃ¶ttering, the outgoing president of the parliament, stressed that Europeans “want” the institution but conceded that this desire would not be reflected in the turnout. The German Christian Democrat, who is likely to be the sole MEP to serve in all seven parliaments since voting began in 1979, said the assembly was “the centre of a European parliamentary democracy of which we could only dream in 1979″.
The damning popular verdict on that assertion, however, looked likely to be the lowest turnout in 30 years, with perhaps two in three European voters not bothering to cast a ballot, compared to 45% last time and 62% in the 1979 election.
Dutch turnout on Thursday was four points down at 36%, and indications yesterday confirmed the downward trend.
A Brussels summit of European leaders next week is to offer a second term to JosÃ© Manuel ÂBarroso in his role as European commission president, and also try to agree special dispensation for Ireland to ease popular endorsement of the Lisbon treaty reforms in a second referendum in October.
The new parliament, meeting next month, is empowered to throw out a new Barroso-led commission, the EU executive, and under the Lisbon reforms the parliament will gain greater powers, able to challenge the 27 governments and have a say in virtually all European legislation.guardian, Voice of a Nation