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European Union

Europe’s Election paradox

European Union 45%

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This situation is paradoxical, as Europe is experiencing one of the worst economic crises in its history, with falling employment and living standards and rising worries about the future. One should have expected the right-wing to be punished in countries where they govern. But that threat did not materialize. The latest returns, indeed, show quite the opposite – in France, Italy, Poland, Denmark, and even Germany, where the CDU had won a large number of representatives in the 2004 elections. Where the right is in opposition, such as in Spain and Portugal, it has improved its position.

On the other hand, the Socialist Party lost support almost everywhere, especially in countries – Spain, Portugal, Hungary, and the Netherlands – where it is in power. The European socialist party (ESP), which held 215 deputies in the old parliament, secured only 160 seats. In France and Denmark, where the Socialist Party is in opposition, it did no better. The only exception is Greece. In France, the Socialist Party is almost outnumbered by Europe Ecologie, a green coalition gathered by the charismatic Daniel Cohn-Bendit.

The liberals remain the third force of the European parliament, with around 80 deputies, less than its previous 100 members. The Greens appear to be the main beneficiaries of the elections and become the forth force: they will get around 55 seats, a gain of more than 10 seats.

Extreme parties also benefited from the elections, as well as some “eurosceptic” parties. In France, Jean-Marie Le Pen’s party has been substantially weakened, but in the Netherlands, the anti–Islam party led by Geert Wilders won 17% of the votes, and in Austria, Denmark, Hungary, Slovakia, and even in the UK the far right did better than expected. Indeed, the far-right British National Party won its first ever seat. But those worried about the ris. of extremism in Europe should take some heart from the fact that there are many differences of views between these parties.

 

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by Raphaël Hadas-Lebel

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