THE RIGHT PATH: European Commission President Jose Barroso, seen addressing journalists on June 8 after the European Parliament elections, has had his chances of a second term in office boosted by voters who handed a majority to centre-right parties.
Overall, the results of the June 2009 European Parliament elections are an undeniable victory for those parties and candidates that support the European project and want to see the European Union delivering policy responses to their everyday concerns, European Commission President Jose Barroso said.
"The political forces that constructively address policy challenges, and that have constructively engaged with the Commission during the past legislature, occupy the overwhelming majority of the seats in the next European Parliament," Barroso said on June 8 2009.
The centre-right European People’s Party was the largest bloc in the outgoing European Parliament, and results from the June 4 to 7 elections indicate that centre-right parties from across the 27 EU states will take 267 of the 736 seats in the new legislature.
Barroso, seeking a further term as head of the EC, will have got a boost through the outcome of the elections.
He told journalists: "From today onwards, Europe owes it to the voters to show once again that it can deliver. It must continue to pave the way through the economic and financial crisis. It must do all it can to support those most vulnerable in society, especially those facing unemployment. And Europe must grasp the opportunity to build a new social market economy that puts a smarter, greener growth at its core, so as to decisively address climate change."
He expressed concern about the record-low voter turnout, saying that national politicians, "whose debates all too often remain largely national in their focus, must acknowledge themselves more consistently as both national and European actors".
There were centre-right victories in major European countries, but with varying degrees of decisiveness, with France producing one of the strongest wins for the centre-right, in the form of president Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP.
Other countries that saw centre-right victories were Germany, although chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU-CSU lost some ground while the social democrats were hard hit; Italy, where allegations around the personal life of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi appear to have cost him support; and in Spain, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Austria.
Pre-election predictions of gains for far-right and fringe parties were largely vindicated, notably in the UK where the hard-right British National Party got two seats and the anti-EU UK Independence Party was reported to be poised to get 17 per cent of the vote, putting Labour in third place, and in Hungary where far-right party Jobbik – which has an anti-Roma platform, among other issues. There were significant far-right gains in the Netherlands, Hungary and Austria, where the Freedom Party leapt to more than 13 per cent of votes.
In Sweden, the Pirate Party, founded to oppose laws criminalising file-sharing, got one of the country’s 18 seats, CNN reported.
"Together we have changed the landscape of European politics," Pirate Party leader Rick Falkvinge told file-sharing news website TorrentFreak after the win. "The citizens have understood it's time to make a difference."
The Pirate Party’s popularity increased markedly in April 2009 after the four founding members of Sweden-based The Pirate Bay, a file-sharing site used by millions worldwide, were found guilty of collaborating to violate copyright law and sentenced to jail.
Bulgaria’s two EU neighbours, Greece and Romania, saw a blow to the governing party and an even run, respectively.
Opposition socialist party Pasok got 36.65 per cent, beating the governing New Democracy’s 32.3 per cent, although these figures will give both eight seats each. Other parties that won seats, according to Greece’s Express newspaper, were the Communist Party (two), nationalists Laos (two), the Coalition of the Radical Left (one) and the Party of Greek Ecologists (one).
In Bucharest, newspaper Romania Libera said that the social democrats and liberal democrats had got close to equal results amid a strikingly low turnout.