Decision Day for Europe
Marine le Pen of the National Front in France: “The sovereign people have spoken loudly to say they want to be master of their own destiny”.
Chain-smoking, pint-drinking Nigel Farage has proved widely popular, despite admitting some of his own party’s ideas are half-baked. His populist plain speaking has amused and encouraged some as it has appalled and worried others.
UKIP is course for an emphatic victory in the European elections in the UK – with leader Nigel Farage promising to use it as a springboard for next year’s general election. It is a trend repeated throughout Europe.
(Based on exit polls/provisional results)
France National Front storm to victory – 25%, 25 seats; Centre-right UMP 21%; President Hollande’s Socialists a poor third with 14% – lowest ever EP score
Britain Eurosceptic UKIP in first place, with 27%, Conservatives on 24% and Labour about 25%, Greens beating Lib Dems.
Italy Centre-left PM Matteo Renzi scores strong 40%, fending off ex-comic Beppe Grillo’s anti-establishment Five Star with 22%, and ex-PM Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia with 16%
Germany Angela Merkel wins another election – 35% for her Christian Union, 27% for the centre-left SPD. Eurosceptic AfD score strong 7%
Greece Partial results show far-left Syriza on 26%, PM Antonis Samaras’ New Democracy on 23%. Far-right Golden Dawn set to get three MEPs, with 9%
In the UK, Labour’s vote is up significantly on 2009 but it is currently neck and neck vying with the Tories for second place. The Lib Dems have come fifth behind the Green Party in most areas and have lost all but one of their seats.
An early breakdown of the major parties in the UK looked like this:
UKIP 28.73% +11.67% 22 seats won Up 10
Conservative 24.19 -3.68% 16 seats won Minus 5
Labour 23.98% +8.84% 14 seats won Up 5
Greens 7.78% -0.66 2 seats won Up 1
Liberal Dems 6.91% -6.82% 1 seat won Minus 8
Only Scotland, London and Northern Ireland have yet to declare. As we report these results, it looks as if UKIP may have taken at least one seat in Scotland as well, which will bolster their argument for being a truly “national” party. (Note: Labour have gained slightly on the Conservatives since this table was prepared.)
UKIP has topped the poll in six of the nine regions to have declared so far, with their strongest performance coming in the East Midlands, where their vote was up 16.5%. Nigel Farage’s far-right anti-immigration anti-EC party has made 10 gains so far and has 22 MEPs
Labour topped the poll in Wales, and the North-West of England, its strongest showing so far with an increase of 13.5%, and the North-East of England and has made five gains so far. The party has returned 14 MEPs.
The Conservatives have lost five seats so far and have returned 16 MEPs.
The Lib Dems have lost eight seats so far but avoided an especially humiliating wipe-out by winning a single seat in the South-East of England. Internal manoeuvring to replace Leader Nick Clegg has been gathering pace since the party’s disastrous local election results last Thursday. The party’s losses in local elections since the formation of the Coalition with the conservatives now number over 1,300 Councillors.
Despite a small reduction in their overall vote the growing Green Party have got two MEPs so far, gaining one seat in the South West at the expense of the Lib Dems, who lost one of their longest serving MEPs and previous group leader in the process.
In his victory speech at the South East of England count, UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: “The people’s army of UKIP have spoken tonight and have delivered just about the most extraordinary result in British politics for 100 years.”
He said the three main parties in Britain had led the country into the Common Market but had “twisted and turned” over an in/out referendum on EU membership.
“The penny’s really dropped that as members of this union we cannot run our own country and crucially, we cannot control our own borders.”
Far from being confined to the centre right of British politics, UKIP had also bitten into old Labour heartlands, he said.
“We’re genuinely a United Kingdom Independence Party. Our people’s army will go from here to Newark and move on to the general election. You haven’t heard the last of us.”
Roger Helmer, UKIP’s candidate in the forthcoming Newark by-election, was elected an MEP as the party’s lead candidate in the East Midlands.
Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps said the results were acting as “a command for Britain to get a better deal” in Europe – but he rejected calls by Tory grandee David Davis to bring forward the in/out EU referendum to 2016, saying negotiations on this could not be rushed.
Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman said UKIP had tapped into people’s disaffection with politics, adding that it was important to her party that Labour beat the Tories into second place.
Lib Dem President Tim Farron said the results “looked as bad as I feared”.
He claimed the Lib Dems had been the only party to stand up to UKIP and anti-Europeanism, but said that policy “may have cost us votes”. He told BBC News: “Nick Clegg has fought and led our campaign bravely … we took the unpopular side of the argument, and we have been punished. But I tell you what, I would do it all over again.”
British National Party leader Nick Griffin lost his seat in the North-West of England, after his party lost 6% of its vote.
Anti-EU parties from the left and right are expected to gain significant numbers of MEPs across all 28 member states in the wake of the eurozone crisis and severe financial squeeze. In particular, the far right anti-EU National Front was forecast to win in France, according to exit polls. In Denmark, the anti-immigration Popular Party is also reported to be ahead in exit polls.
Pro-EU parties are still expected to hold the majority in parliament. Turnout across the EU is up slightly at 43.1%, according to estimates.
In the European elections five years ago, The Conservatives got 27.7% of the total vote, ahead of UKIP on 16.5%, Labour on 15.7%, the Lib Dems were on 13.7%, the Green Party on 8.6% and the BNP on 6.2%.
UKIP has been celebrating gains in Thursday’s council elections in England, which saw it add 161 councillors and led Mr Farage to predict it could get its first MPs elected next year.
The Green Party of England and Wales has set itself a target of tripling its representation from two to six MEPs and of finishing ahead of the Lib Dems in fourth place.
The BNP won two seats in 2009 after getting 6.2% share of the vote but opinion polls have suggested their nationwide support has fallen sharply since then and they could struggle to retain these seats.
In total, 30 parties contested the European elections in the UK, including the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Sinn Fein, the Democratic Unionist Party and Ulster Unionist Party, which all won seats in 2009.
Britain is one of eight countries to use a “closed list” system where people vote for a party, rather than an individual.
The parties – here is the BBC guide to each of them – decide who goes on the candidate list for each of the electoral regions, with the ones at the top standing the best chance of being elected.
The way seats are allocated within each European constituency uses the D’hondt system, which is a form of proportional representation.
Across Europe as a whole, 751 MEPs will be elected to the European Parliament, in proportion to countries’ population size.
The powers of the parliament, which sits in both Brussels and Strasbourg, have expanded since the last election in 2009.
MEPs now negotiate legislation with national government ministers in what is called “co-decision”, before parliament votes on the laws.
They have a say on budget areas including agriculture and regional aid.
(The BBC and others)