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  • 55


     
    Voters Set To Desert Mainstream Parties in EU Elections
    Report; Posted on: 2009-04-17 20:59:05 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]
    Mainstream political parties across Europe are bracing themselves for a backlash from voters in elections to the European Parliament, with some fearing an unprecedented protest vote for extreme candidates from the far Left and Right.

    In Britain, a Labour MEP has warned that six seats could be taken by the British National Party, who could be joined in Strasbourg by an increased number of far right MEPs from Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Greece as well as half a dozen members of the Dutch right-wing populist Geert Wilders's new Party for Freedom.

    On the far Left, the Nouveau Partie Anticapitaliste is forecast to pick up at least ten MEPs in France, while in Germany Die Linke is predicted to grow from seven to at least 11.

    Julia de Clerck, a research fellow at the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies, said that she expected to see greater representation from the extremes when votes were cast for 736 MEPs from 27 countries on June 4 to 7.

    “There will be a shift towards both sides of the fringes, leading to a more diverse Parliament,” she said.


    “In times of economic crisis, it is a very common phenomenon that, because people are disillusioned with their governments, they cast protest votes and want to see radical solutions.”

    In Britain, the pollster Peter Kellner said that the BNP and the UK Independence Party would probably pick up 12 to 14 per cent of the vote in most regions, but the split between them would determine whether they win seats, with UKIP predicted to fall back from its achievement of 12 MEPs in the 2004 vote.

    But while some are predicting that 2009 will mark the start of a new politics, with a more polarised and angry electorate, the first pan-EU forecast for the European Parliament elections has shown a surprising level of support for encumbent parties.

    Predict09.eu, the forecasting project run by the London School of Economics and Trinity College, Dublin, has suggested that the European People's Party (EPP), the main centre-Right grouping of parties in the European Parliament, will remain the largest bloc but fall from 37 per cent to 33 per cent of MEPs. Much of this would be due to the resignation of the British Conservatives, who are leaving to form their own anti-federalist centre-right group with allies from the Czech ODS party and others. The Party of European Socialists, the main centre-Left alliance, is forecast to rise from 27 per cent to 29 per cent, while the third largest group, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, would stay third on about 12 per cent.

    The EPP's position will be bolstered by the continuing popularity of Poland’s centre-Right Civic Platform, which is on course to gain MEPs, and the recently formed Italian party, the People of Freedom, which is forecast to hold its own despite the recession. Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP also expects to increase its number of MEPs, with the centre-Left in France predicted to continue to struggle at the expense of the far Left.

    But while Parliament-watchers see the EPP continuing to dominate the chamber, the departure of David Cameron's party could have far-reaching effects. Andrew Duff, leader of the Liberal Democrat MEPs, said: “For Parliament, the threat is of a conservative nationalist group that could block or impair the creation of qualified majorities for co-decision, especially at second reading and on budgetry issues, so we cannot be complacent about the formation of parliamentary groups.”

    Rather than the much-feared rise of the extremes, it is this shift within the centre-Right that could be the real tectonic change in the next European Parliament.

    As Hugh Brady, research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, said: "We believe the EPP will still be [the biggest group] but with the loss of the Tories they have lost a lot of good MEPs. They did a lot to centre the EPP.

    “The whole strategy for the Tories is that if their Euro 'realist' group succeeds in doing a credible job they will, over time, take moderate conservative parties with them and reduce the EPP to a bunch of Euro federalists.”

    Source

    News Source: times online

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