Europe turning to 'extremism' in EU vote

Most EU nations are voting as conservatives are expected to return as the largest bloc and some far-right parties could make gains.

Europe turning to 'extremism' in EU vote

EU states began the final day of voting in a European Parliament election on Sunday which is expected to boost "extremist" and "far-right elements" in EU member states.

Voting took place in 19 countries on the fourth and final day of the election, in which the other eight EU member states have already finished voting.

The assembly shapes many EU laws and authorises the EU budget.

Each country holds its own election for the parliament, but full results will only be known late Sunday after France, Germany, Italy, Spain and 15 other countries have held their votes.

Over 375 million people are eligible to take part in the elections rolling out across recession-hit Europe. Most of the 27 EU nations will vote Sunday, and the conservatives are expected to return as the largest bloc and some far-right parties could make gains if the turnout is particularly low.

EU leaders fear the turnout rate, which has fallen with each election since the first in 1979, could slump to a new record low.

But their victory could be undermined by voter apathy and a focus on national woes rather than European issues.

Extremist anti-EU right- and left-wing parties hope to pick up votes and seats in the new assembly against a backdrop of recession and rising unemployment.

"Extremist parties", already profiting from the recession in Europe, are lined up to benefit from the anger against national governments, according to outgoing European parliament president Hans-Gert Poettering.

EU parliamentary elections hit turbulence Friday after prematurely published Dutch results confirmed fears of voter apathy and extremist gains and Britain's prime minister sought damage control.

But across Europe, movements ranging from the Pirate Party in Sweden which wants free Internet downloads to far-right anti-European and anti-immigrant parties held high hopes of claiming a seat in the parliament.

"Scandal-hit governments"

Parliament will start releasing results at 2000 GMT after the last ballot station closes. Exit polls from voting in the Netherlands worried EU leaders by showing gains for a far-right party.

"It doesn't look like the elections are a going to a be a triumph or a grand moment for European democracy," said Thomas Klau of the European Council on Foreign relations.

"National governments have set the perception that Europe is pretty useless by not being able to deliver a sufficiently strong and compelling and united message in the midst of the biggest economic crisis since the 1930s."

Opinion polls before the election began suggested fewer than half the 375 million electorate would vote.

Many voters were expected to vote on domestic issues, which is bad news for several national governments.

Britain's Labour Party, mired in a scandal over parliamentarians' perks, looks set for a drubbing.

Voters also are likely to punish Ireland's Fianna Fail for failing to protect the once thriving economy and it could lose one European Parliament seat to the Libertas party which opposes the EU's Lisbon reform treaty.

Other countries where governing parties could suffer setbacks include Spain, Greece, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Voting took place on Sunday in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

Germany's voting will test the waters before a national election in September and French President Nicolas Sarkozy would use a good performance by his ruling UMP party to show that the French people back his policies.

For Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the risk is that a series of scandals, such as his relationship with an 18-year-old, will hurt his centre-right party's standing.

In Latvia, municipal elections were held alongside the European election and the voting is a test for the five parties in the ruling coalition presiding over a currency crisis.

Dutch voters sent a worrying signal to EU leaders by pushing anti-Islam leader Geert Wilders' Freedom Party in to second place with four of the 25 seats, only one fewer than the main party in the centre-right coalition government.

The 45-year-old firebrand politician has declared himself on a mission to fight the "Islamisation" of the Netherlands.

If the Lisbon treaty comes into force, parliament's approval will also be required for the new posts of EU president and EU foreign policy chief.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 07 Haziran 2009, 14:51