The centre-right has come out on top in Europe after EU elections marked by a record low turnout and harsh lessons for ruling parties in some countries.
The European People’s Party delivered a heavy blow to the Socialists and will remain the main group in parliament. The conservatives have strengthened their ability to set the agenda in the assembly that passes many of the European Union’s laws and its budget.
Results show the centre right as an overall winner in the European Parliament elections, set to gain 263 out of the parliament’s 736 seats.
The Socialist grouping the PSE gains 161 seats.
The alliance of Democrats and Liberals wins 80 seats and the Greens, coming fourth, have 52 seats.
The governing centre-right groups won in Germany, France, Poland and Italy, and Green parties did well on a bad night for the Socialists, who failed to cash in on widespread discontent with Europe’s handling of the global economic crisis.
Turnout was 42.85% percent, a record low. Results showed ruling parties beaten or heading for defeat in some of the countries worst hit by the crisis — Britain, Ireland, Latvia, Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria, Spain and Portugal.
The British National Party won its first two seats in the parliament and other far-right groups appeared to have gained in the Netherlands, Romania and Hungary. But they did not make as big an
impact as some political analysts had expected.
The centre-right swept the board in a welcome surprise result for German, French, Polish and Italian governments in particular.
Other centre-left governments were badly hit, including Greece and the UK.
In Germany which has 99 seats in the parliament, the conservatives led by chancellor Angela
Merkel came out on top with 30.7% of the vote, ahead of the Social Democrats with a historic low of 20.8%.
In France, the conservative UMP party led by president Nicolas Sarkozy won 27.8% ahead of the Socialists with 16.48% of the vote. The Greens led by Daniel Cohn-Bendit meawhile made surprise gains and leapt to third place with over 16%.
In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi’s centre right party also won, with just under 36% of the vote, in spite of the recent scandals about his personal life.
In Spain the right also won a national poll for the first time this century over the ruling Socialist Party led by Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero.
In Portugal the centre-right also enjoyed a surprise win. This is the home country of European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.
In the UK, the ruling Labour party led by Gordon Brown suffered a huge defeat, coming third in the polls with 15.31%, behind both the Conservatives with 27% and the Eurosceptic UKIP party with 16.09%.
In two shock wins, Andrew Brons and Nick Griffin of the neo-fascist BNP both won seats at the EU parliament despite the fact the BNP’s overall share of the vote was down.
In Austria, the Eurosceptic party led by Hans Peter Martin also won 17.9% and two far-right parties also increased their share of the poll.
In the Netherlands the Islamophobic party of Geert Wilders won 17% of the vote and four seats.
In Hungary the extreme right-wing party Jobbik won three seats.
In Slovakia, the ultra-nationalist SNS party won its first seat.
In Romania the extreme right-wing party PRM won two seats.
Overall, there will not be a huge change to the balance of power in the EU Parliament, but smaller parties will now be more easily heard.
The centre-right victory should also ensure a new mandate for José Manuel Barroso as President of the European Commission as most of the heads of government of the 27 countries of the EU have declared in his favour.