European elections:in the Med, each country goes its own way

Big wins for French far-right, Greek left, Italian Democrats

26 May, 18:45

    German The Left Party convention in Berlin [ARCHIVE MATERIAL 20140510 ] German The Left Party convention in Berlin [ARCHIVE MATERIAL 20140510 ]

    (by Patrizio Nissirio) (ANSAmed) - ROME, MAY 26 - Voters in every country rocked the establishment boat, albeit in different ways, as political blowback from the economic crisis affected most entrenched parties in Sunday's European Parliament elections. Results on Europe's southern shore show three general tendencies: those who wanted to overturn the establishment; those who chose to punish their leaders, but only to a certain extent; and those who gave their government a vote of confidence.

    The latter was the case in Italy, where the triumph of the ruling Democratic Party and the flop of the anti-establishment, anti-euro 5-Star Movement has bequeathed a great popular mandate, but also a great responsibility, on Premier Matteo Renzi.

    The same happened in Cyprus, where voters rewarded the ruling conservative party.

    On the Mediterranean front, French voters flocked to the extreme right, Spaniards punished traditional parties and brought to the fore a party born of the 'indignados' movement, while in Greece, the anti-austerity left led by Alexis Tsipras scored a victory but not a death blow to the Antonis Samaras government. In the Balkans, low voter turnout saw the center-right prevail.

    The most striking upset is surely the victory of France's far-right National Front, whose leader Marine Le Pen skillfully took advantage of voter discontent over the economic crisis, rising anti-immigrant sentiment, and the lackluster administration of socialist President Francois Hollande. While the French euroskeptic contingent (26%, 24 seats) won't have much leverage in the European Parliament, even through alliances with like-minded parties from other countries, the political signal, both domestically and for the rest of Europe, has sounded loud and clear as the socialists, who fell to historic lows in the polls, face an uncertain future.

    In Spain, which paid one of the highest prices for the economic downturn, voters penalized the traditional two-party system alternating between the People's Party and the Socialist Party, both of which lost substantial slices of the electorate, while launching what could reveal itself to be a serious contender: Podemos (We Can), the movement born of the 'indignados' anti-austerity protests, made its debut with a respectable 6.46% of the vote.

    And while the government of Mariano Rajoy maintained its hold on power, the lost of eight out of Spain's 54 seats on the EP is a signal not to be ignored.

    A somewhat similar situation occurred in Greece, where Tsipras' leftist Syriza coalition scored a victory but not a total upset with 26.42% of the vote, becoming the number one party: conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who governs the country in an alliance with the socialists (who also were penalized in the voting booth) can breathe a sigh of relief, but Tsipras on Monday nevertheless called for early elections. In Croatia, which is the youngest EU member, the center-right obtained 41.5% of the vote and five out of the country's 11 EP seats.

    The ruling center-left coalition trailed with 29% of the vote, with social-democratic Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic calling it ''an important lesson for us''. Conservatives also triumphed in neighboring Slovenia, where former premier Janez Jansa's Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) won 24.8% of the vote and three out of eight MEPs. A conservative coalition between the Christian democratic New Slovenia Party and the Slovenian People's Party garnered 16.4% of the vote and two seats in Strasbourg.

    Malta stuck to tradition, with 53% of voters liking the Labour Party and 40% favoring the Nationalist Party.

    In the year of the Mediterranean, with the Greek EU presidency to be followed by that of Italy, Mediterranean European voters have sent a miscellaneous set of representatives to the European Parliament: a southern front remains difficult to imagine. (ANSAmed).

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