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Centrist parties lose long-held majority in EU vote

(China Daily) -- The four-day European Parliament election ended on Sunday with the powerful centre-right and centre-left party groups losing their combined, decadeslong majority while liberals, greens and populists surged to paint a new political landscape for the European Union.
The centre-right European People’s Party, retaining 179 seats compared with 216 in 2014, remains the largest party group. The center-left Socialists and Democrats saw their seats dropping to 150 from the 191 in 2014.

Politicians speak at the European Parliament General Assembly Hall in Brussels, Belgium.

They are expected to seek support from the Liberals, with over 100 seats, and Greens, with nearly 70 seats, to form a pro-European Union coalition in the 751-seat Parliament. The Parliament plays a major role in shaping EU legislation and in selecting the head of the executive European Commission.
Overall, the four pro-EU party groups in the Parliament secured 505 seats.
“For the first time in 40 years, the two classical parties, socialists and conservatives, will no longer have a majority,” said Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberal ALDE bloc and a former Belgian prime minister.
“It’s clear this evening is a historical moment, because there will be a new balance of power in the European Parliament.”
“Europe wins! Voter turnout very high and pro-European parties are strongest,” Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said on social media on Sunday night.
The 50.5 percent turnout in the world’s largest transnational election was the highest in 20 years. Turnout was the highest in Belgium at 89 percent and lowest in Slovenia at 28 percent.
Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece and Luxembourg have a compulsory voting system.
Tristan Thomson, a Belgian student who studies in London, flew back to Brussels to cast his first vote in a European election.
“I am very happy to be here to see the turnout, because it’s a massive campaign this year where many people take the European election seriously,” he said.
“I am very proud to be a European citizen,” he added.
In the United Kingdom, which took part in the vote due to the nation’s delayed departure from the EU, the newly formed Brexit Party, led by Nigel Farage, was the biggest winner, with 32 percent of the vote, while the Conservatives and Labour suffered major losses.
In Germany, the two major centrist parties suffered heavy blows. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union plunged to 28 percent of the vote from 35 percent in 2014, while the center-left Social Democratic Party dropped to 15.5 percent from 27 percent.
The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany did not fare as well as expected. It was projected in exit polls to win 10.5 percent.
Populist parties made major advances in France, Italy and Poland.
Marine le Pen’s National Rally party won 24 percent of the vote over the 22.5 percent by President Emmanuel Macron’s party.
Le Pen, who lost out to Macron in the 2017 presidential election, called on him to dissolve Parliament and hold new elections, but her proposal was quickly rejected by the government.
“It is up to the president of the republic to draw conclusions. He put his presidential credibility on the line in this vote in making it a referendum on his policies and even his personality,” Le Pen said.
In Italy, Matteo Salvini, leader of the League party, surprised many by winning 33.6 percent of the vote according to preliminary results, making it the largest party in Italy.
In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party was a big winner with 52 percent of the vote and 13 of the country’s 21 seats. “We are small, but we want to change Europe,” Orban said. He described the elections as “the beginning of a new era against migration”.
In Spain, the ruling Socialist party took a clear lead with 32.8 percent of the vote and 20 seats.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called for an early election after his Syriza party was defeated by the opposition New Democracy party.
The European Parliament has insisted that one of its own winning members should succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission. But many national leaders, who are expected to meet in Brussels on Tuesday, have said that they don’t want to be bound by that decision.


(Latest Update
May 29,
2019)


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