Pundits: Europe's left loses vote it should have won

9th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

After conservatives decisively beat socialists in elections marred by a record low turnout, Spain's centre-right El Mundo said Europe's left must figure out what went wrong.

Paris -- The humiliating defeat of centre-left parties in EU parliamentary elections comes at a time when their message should have connected with voters hurt by the recession, European papers said Monday.

After conservatives decisively beat socialists in elections marred by a record low turnout, Spain's centre-right El Mundo said Europe's left must figure out what went wrong.

"The traditional parties of the left should ask themselves why, in the midst of crisis, just when free market theories appear to be most challenged, people continue to prefer liberal recipes," it said.

Left-wing parties in power in Britain, Spain and Portugal were punished by their electorates while their allies in opposition in Germany and France suffered brutal losses.

The defeat for the left opened the door for far-right anti-immigrant and eurosceptic parties to seize the moment and gain support for their hardline message.

In the Netherlands, anti-Islamic lawmaker Geert Wilders's Party for Freedom came second with 17 percent of the vote.

"The Netherlands set the tone for the European elections," left-wing Dutch paper Volkskrant wrote in an editorial. "Like here, Social Democrats throughout the rest of Europe are the big losers."

The economic daily Financieele Dagblad commented, "Many social democratic parties in Europe failed to take advantage of the crisis spawned by poor market policies."

The centre-right bloc in the EU parliament, the European People's Party (EPP), secured 263 seats confirming it again as the biggest group in the 736-member assembly, ahead of the socialists on 163 seats, down from 215 in 2004, official estimates said.

Turnout slumped to 43.09 percent in the election held over the course of four days, down from 45.4 percent in 2004.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party suffered a drubbing in the vote, putting further pressure on the premier to step down or call new elections.

The anti-immigration British National Party won its first ever seats while the anti-European United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip) gained more support than Labour.

"Gordon Brown faces a make or break challenge to his leadership today after Labour trailed humiliatingly behind Ukip in the European elections," the left-leaning Guardian wrote.

The right-wing Daily Telegraph, whose string of revelations about wild expenses claims made by members of parliament rocked the government, said, "Gordon Brown's future is in grave doubt this morning after Labour suffered humiliating election results and the BNP gained its first two seats in the European Parliament."

In Spain the victory of the right "is a serious warning" to the Socialist government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, said the centre-left El Pais.

El Mundo said the rise of the far-right in Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovenia was "very worrying" and "another pernicious effect of the serious economic downturn."

AFP/Expatica

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