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DESCRIBED AS ‘AN EARTHQUAKE’ BY THE Prime Minister of France the European elections in May duly delivered gains to both the left and right at the expense of the centre though perhaps not to the extent that polls and commentators had predicted. France was, perhaps, a special case as a far-right party, the Front National, topped the poll although the success of UKIP in the U.K. was also seen as a ‘seismic shift’ by some. On the left the anti-austerity (though not anti-EU or even anti-euro) party Syriza was in first place in Greece while in Spain the three-month old ‘Podemos’ group went from zero to 5 MEPs. Sweden’s Soraya Post became the first MEP from a feminist party. However, despite these changes, the centre-right European Peoples’ Party retained its spot as the biggest grouping in the European Parliament, beating off the challenge from the Socialists and Democrats who remain second. It is more than likely that co-operation between these two and other established pro-EU forces such as the liberal ALDE group will enable the business of the parliament to continue much as before. Less predictable is co-operation among the anti-EU parties which range from the conservative AfD from Germany to the openly neo-Nazi Golden Dawn from Greece.
|Voter participation UK/EU average 1979-2014||No. and % of Women MEPs by party group|
A proposed far-right grouping around the French Front National was unable to gather MEPs from the required seven Member States but the UKIP-headed EFD group managed to continue with the aid of the Italian ‘Five Star Movement’ led by former comedian Beppe Grillo. For the first time ever a rise in voter turnout was recorded albeit of only 0.01% to 43.1%, the British figure rising by a slightly greater amount. There was a similarly small increase in female representation with nearly 37% of the returned MEPs being women, up by about 1.25% from 2009. Interestingly the statistics show an almost perfect right to left progression from the 21% female EFD delegation to the 51% of the GUE/NGL at the other end of the political spectrum.