The eurosceptic Freedom Party (PVV) in the Netherlands tanked and their British counterparts UKIP gained on the first day of the EU-wide elections that will see 400 mln voters going to the polls to elect 751 members of the new European Parliament, and probably the European Commission chief.
Geert Wilders’ populist PVV has suffered an electoral blow and the Dutch pro-European liberal party D66 is expected to claim the largest number of seats, according to an exit poll released on Thursday that showed that the real winner was none other than voter apathy.
While the far-right party is seen losing two seats and dropping to just three, the left-liberal D66 and the centre-right CDA are neck-and-neck in the lead according to exit polls conducted by Ipsos, that see both gaining just over 15% of the votes.
The final results for the whole of the EU will be announced at 11pm CET on Sunday (midnight in Cyprus, 10pm in Portugal).
The ruling socialist PvdA dropped by 2.6 percentage points and is set to keep its three seats in the European Parliament, while the centre-right liberal VVD gains 1.1 points but remains at three seats as well.
The two newcomers amongst the Dutch parties in the EP are the Party for the Animals (PvdD), focusing on animal welfare and ecological issues, and the 50PLUS party, targeting seniors. Both end up with one seat.
Cyprus was the last country in the EU to declare a Party for the Animals, just three weeks.
Results in the UK, which also held local council elections on Thursday, showed that the anti-EU UK Independence Party surged at the expense of both the Conservatives and Labour.
UKIP has made strong gains in local elections, taking seats from both Prime Minister David Cameron’s Tories and the opposition Labour party, according to early results made available on Friday, which indicate a similar result for the EP vote for 73 British MEPs.
UKIP wants Britain to leave the EU and cut back on immigration, and hopes to use the local and the EP elections to build momentum to win its first seats in parliament next year.
UKIP won more new seats than any other party in the local council elections, according to partial results from around a quarter of councils.
Previous opinion polls have shown that UKIP leader Nigel Farage has siphoned support from all three main parties by tapping into discontent about the ability of politicians to effect change, particularly on immigration, which many Britons perceive to be overly high.
Of the 4,216 local council seats contested, UKIP seems to have gained 84 seats, the junior coalition partner Liberal Democrats had lost 67, Labour gained 69 and the Conservatives lost 93.
European elections continue in Ireland on Friday, then on to Latvia, Malta, Slovakia and the French overseas territories on Saturday and the rest of the EU countries on Sunday.
Next Tuesday, EU leaders will meet for an extraordinary summit to take stock of the European Parliament election results.
Visit the European Parliament Cyprus website http://www.europarl.cy/
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