Europe swings to anti-EU parties

Marine Le Pen’s National Front achieving a historic win in France

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says France and the whole of Europe are undergoing a "crisis of confidence", after a clear victory by French anti-immigrant, anti-EU, far-right party National Front. Video: Reuters


Europe has witnessed a strong swing to the political fringes, electing the largest number of Eurosceptic MEP’s in the history of the European Parliament, with Marine Le Pen’s National Front achieving a historic win in France.

Independents and anti-EU parties are in line to double their seats in the 751-member assembly according to exit polls last night.

However, mainstream parties will still hold the majority of seats in the next European Parliament.

The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), which includes parties such as Fine Gael and Angela Merkel’s CDU, and the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S & D) group ,will continue to hold more than 400 seats between them, according to projections.

Among the victors was Ms Le Pen’s National Front party which topped the poll in France with a quarter of the vote, bypassing the conservative UMP party, and leaving François Hollande’s Socialist Party in third place. The party is now in line for 24 seats in Strasbourg.

UKIP was expected to top the poll in Britain, with exit polls last night predicting the party could win 31 per cent of the vote. “Up until now European integration has always seemed inevitable . . . I think that inevitability will end tonight,” UKIP leader Nigel Farage said last night in a live video link to the European Parliament in Brussels, describing the decision to allow former Soviet countries into the European Union as one of Europe’s “great errors.”

Greece’s main opposition party Syriza topped the polls there, while the far-right Golden Dawn party came third with between 8 and 10 per cent of the vote.

In Germany, support for Alternative for Deutschland (AFD) an anti-EU party formed barely two years ago, reach 6.5 per cent, with the party in the running for six seats.

In Austria, the far-right Freedom party was expected to win 20 per cent of votes, up from 13 per cent in 2009.

However, some extreme anti-EU parties in smaller countries did not poll as well as expected, with the far-right Vlaams Belang in Belgium losing support.

Close to 380 million people were eligible to vote in this year’s European elections, which took place against the backdrop of the most severe economic downturn since the second World War.

Anti-immigration and frustration at austerity were themes that dominated the campaigns in a number of countries from Denmark to Greece, fuelling a rise in support for parties opposed to European integration.