Europe's mainstream parties stunned by election results

Updated: 2014-05-27 10:11


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STRASBOURG - European politicians spent all day Monday digesting the results of the European Parliament (EP) elections, which in the end proved as momentous as that forecast by weeks of opinion polls.

Across the European Union (EU), parties of both the far-right and far-left made sweeping gains at the expense of the traditional parties of centre-right and centre-left.

Europe's mainstream parties stunned by election results
European elections reflect consensus at EU level

Perhaps the most stunning result was in France where the outwardly EU-hostile Front National (FN) won 26 percent of the vote, comfortably ahead of the second-placed UMP, and humiliating President Francois Hollande's Socialists who garnered a measly 14 percent, their worst-ever score at a European election.

But almost as amazing was the victory the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) which wants a straight in-out referendum on Britain's membership of the EU. UKIP won 28 percent of the vote, giving it at least 10 additional EP seats. The result was the first time since 1910 that a national election was not won by either the Conservatives or the Labour Party.

Far-right parties also scored big in Denmark, Austria and Hungary, while the far-left Syriza topped the poll in Greece.

Of course, the results do not necessarily reflect considered opinions of voters about either the EP or the EU. Rather, the election was a chance for some voters to give their incumbent national governments a bloody nose. This was largely the case in Britain, where there is widespread dissatisfaction with the governing Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, and arguably wholly the case in France where President Hollande has plumbed uncharted depths of mid-term unpopularity.

In addition, voters generally think they are freer to cast a protest vote in the EP Elections as the latter are regarded as not so important or serious as national elections.

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