Tuesday, 22 June 2004

Shock swing towards euroscepticism in European Parliament elections

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – With most of the results counted, it is clear that smaller, eurosceptic or populist parties have triumphed at the expense of more well-established parties.

The biggest shock for the establishment undoubtedly comes from the UK, where the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which wants complete withdrawal from the EU, secured 17 percent of the vote and 14 seats.

This result placed the UKIP third behind the Conservatives (who polled 27 percent and have 25 seats) and Labour (who secured 22 percent of the vote and 18 seats).

And it left the more established Liberal Democrats trailing in their wake on 15 percent.

Liberal leader Graham Watson said he regretted the fact that “parliament will have a greater number of anti-Europeans” adding that they will be rather “unproductive members”.

Pat Cox, outgoing head of the European Parliament, put a brave face on the result by saying that “though significant and a new dimension in its scale, it must be put in context”. He said it only represented 10-15 percent of MEPs.

Eurosceptics also achieved a major victory in Sweden, where the recently-formed EU-critical Junilistan came third in the election, securing 14.4 percent of the vote and three seats in the new European Parliament.

It was also a memorable night for the populist Vlaams Blok in Belgium. The far-right party scored 14.3 percent, making it the second biggest party in Belgium.

The populist self-defence party in Poland won 11.5 percent of the vote and will be sending seven representatives to the hemicycle in Brussels and Strasbourg.

And Jean-Marie Le Pen’s Front National consolidated its position as France’s third party, with ten percent of the vote.

Transparency: a clear winner

Two candidates running on “transparency” tickets also booked their own tickets to the Parliament. Paul van Buitenen, who became famous in 1998 for blowing the whistle on fraud and mismanagement inside the EU institutions, secured two seats for his “europa transparent” party.

And Austrian MEP Hans-Peter Martin, who alleged that his colleagues were abusing the expenses system and ran a “transparency” campaign, also won two seats.

By Richard Carter

This article first appeared on euobserver.com