November 29, 2021

‘This is an earthquake’: The far-right rises as EU elections signal a massive shift across Europe


French far-right Front National party president Marine Le Pen exults at the party’s headquarters in Nanterre, outside Paris, on May 25, 2014. France suffered a political earthquake on May 25, 2014 as the far-right National Front topped the polls in European elections with an unprecedented haul of one in every four votes cast. AFP PHOTO / PIERRE ANDRIEU

European voters have delivered “an earthquake,” says France’s prime minister, with the dramatic rise of right-wing, Euroskeptic parties. Partial returns from the 28-nation European Parliament elections show an unprecedented surge by Euroskeptics and outright anti-EU politicians. The results have sent national political party leaders scrambling with France’s ruling Socialist party holding a crisis meeting and Britain’s Conservatives rethinking their strategy for next year’s general election. “European politics will be different from today on,” said Doru Frantescu, policy director and co-founder of VoteWatch Europe, an independent Brussels-based organization.

So who were the big winners and losers?

The winners


In France, the anti-EU, far-right National Front party led by Marine Le Pen got one in four votes, the best showing by any of the country’s parties. The Socialists were holding emergency meetings to discuss the results. The breakthrough dealt a further blow to President Francois Hollande, the least popular leader in France’s modern history. Proclaiming “politics of the French, for the French, with the French,” Ms. Le Pen said the election was a “humiliation” for Mr. Hollande.

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage celebrates at a pub in central London on May 26, 2014. His UK Independence Party (UKIP) topped the poll in European elections in Britain. AFP PHOTO / Leon Neal


With most of the seats declared in Britain, Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party (UKIP) had 27.5% of the vote, the main opposition Labour Party 25%, the Conservatives 24%. Prime Minister David Cameron has ruled out a coalition with UKIP. Mr. Farage said it was the most stunning election upset in 100 years.


Voters in Greece, handed first place and six seats to the anti-establishment Syriza party that campaigned against fiscal austerity policies. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s New Democracy party came second but the Nationalist Golden Dawn party, whose leader and five other lawmakers are in prison pending trial on charges of running a criminal organization, jumped to third place, with 9.4 percent of the vote. The result gives them three seats.


In Poland, marginal anti-EU politician Janusz Korwin-Mikke was elected to the parliament after declaring that it corrupts politicians and should be turned into a brothel.


Podemos, a new movement that grew out of street demonstrations against politicians and banks, won five seats.

The losers


Initial exit polls from the Netherlands showed a setback for Geert Wilders’s anti-EU Freedom Party, which may have come in fourth after targeting a first-place finish.

Beppe Grillo, leader of the Five Stars Movement, delivers a speech during a campaign rally in Rome on Friday, May 23, 2014, preceding the EU Parliament elections on May 25. AP Photo / Gregorio Borgia


The anti-establishment Five Star Movement, led by former comic Beppe Grillo, was defeated by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party.


Angela Merkel’s conservatives were the strongest force in Germany winning with 36% of the vote, but that was down from 42% in last year’s national election. The anti-euro Alternative for Germany party — which is only a year old — won about 7% of the vote. Ms. Merkel called the rise of the Euroskeptics “regrettable.”

With files from Bloomberg News


The Meaning of the European Elections