Tough Times: Europe Swings To The Right

Among the election's biggest losers was the UK's Labour party, which saw its support drop from 19 seats to 12 and won just 15.3 percent of the vote -- its worst post-war election result. It finished in third place behind the Conservatives (24 seats) and the euroskeptic United Kingdom Independence Party (14 seats). The vote is seen as a damning verdict on Labour, whose leader Gordon Brown is under increasing pressure to resign as prime minister due to an ongoing expense account scandal in the House of Commons.

Opposition parties in several countries did well. In Spain, the conservative People's Party won 42 percent of the vote, gaining 23 seats, compared to the 21 seats won by the ruling center-left Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE). In Austria the ruling Social Democrats (SPÖ) had their worst-ever result in a national election, winning just 23.8 percent of the vote, a drop of more than 9 percent.

However government parties prevailed in several countries including France, Italy and Poland. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP won 28 percent of the vote, while the opposition Socialists got just 17 percent, putting them slightly ahead of the Greens who won 16 percent. In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL) party won 35 percent of the vote, while in Poland, Prime Minister Donald Tusk's Civic Platform party did particularly well, winning around 45 percent of the vote.

Far-right and right-wing populist parties also did well in the election. In the Netherlands, the anti-Islam Freedom Party of the filmmaker Geert Wilders won around 17 percent of the vote, making it the second strongest party. The right-wing populist party True Finns won around 14 percent of the vote in Finland, up from just 0.5 percent in 2004. In Denmark, the right-wing populist DVP increased its share of the vote from 6.8 percent in 2004 to around 15 percent. Italy's right-wing populist Northern League won around 10 percent of the vote, giving it 8 seats, while in the UK the far-right British National Party won four seats.

Despite the low turnout, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso expressed satisfaction with the results. "Overall, the results are an undeniable victory for those parties and candidates that support the European project," he said.

dgs -- with wire reports

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