07/06/2009 - Results
The right won in 14 Member States and the left in 11 during the European Elections in 2004. In 2009 the right won in 20 countries (in Latvia, although a rightwing party won the election cannot easily be summarized by a left-right conflict) and the left in only 7 – Slovakia, Malta, Denmark, Greece, Romania, Sweden and in Estonia where the result and the second position held by the independent candidate Indrek Tarand (25.81% of the vote) make it difficult to interpret the election.
A Decline in Turnout
Turnout was down in the first election with 27 members: 43.23% on average in the Union, i.e. -2.4 points in comparison with the June 2004 election. However this overall figure, which is higher than the polls had previously forecast, has to be looked at carefully. Indeed in the 15 oldest Member States turnout lay at 47.04% i.e. slightly lower than in 2004 (-2.06 points). However there are major variations between Member States: voting was stable in Belgium: (90.39%, - 0.42 points) and in Luxembourg (91%, + 2 points), which is quite normal since it is compulsory to vote in both of these countries, but the level also remained at its 2004 level in Germany (43.3%, + 0.27 point), in Finland (40.3%) and in Spain (46%), rising by 0.9 points in both cases. Turnout rose sharply in Denmark (59.52% + 11,67 points) – a referendum on the order of succession to the throne was organised on the same day in the Scandinavian kingdom –, in Sweden (45.53%, + 7.73 points) but also in Austria – albeit slightly – (45.34%, + 2,94 points). Turnout fell radically in two countries: in Italy (66.46%, - 6.64 points) where local by-elections took place on the same day as the European election – and in Greece (52.63%, -10.55 points), a country which has been experiencing a serious political crisis for several months. In France, Portugal, Netherlands and the UK – a country which also voted in local by-elections that traditionally mobilizes few voters – turnout declined but in a less spectacular manner.
The situation differs in the 12 Member States that joined the Union between 2004 and 2007. Turnout in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (and on the islands of Cyprus and Malta) rose to 28.65% +0.99 point in comparison with 2004 (Bulgaria and Romania did not take part to that vote). Hence again it is the length of time spent as a Member of the Union which is a major factor in turnout in the European election. As five years ago Malta took the prize for civism since 78.81% of the electorate turned out to vote (-3.57 points in comparison with 2004), some Maltese were also voting for their local representatives on the same day. Then came Latvia with 52.56% (+11.22 points) and Estonia (43.9%, +17.2 points). It remains that this turnout was a surprise in Latvia since many analysts had forecast a "ballot boycott" in this country that is suffering greatly from the economic crisis. This rise in turnout can be explained to some extent by the vote on the part of the Russian speaking community some of whom do not have Latvian nationality and who therefore cannot take part in the national elections. Many Russian speakers registered on the electoral rolls in view of this election.
In Estonia internet voting, that was already tried out in the local elections on 16th October 2005 and in the general elections of 4th March 2007 is one of the factors that led to a rise in turnout: 14.9% of voters used the internet. The socio-economic and government crisis also encouraged some voters to make their voice heard.
Turnout is still low but rose slightly in Poland (24.53%, + 3.66 points) and in Slovakia (19.64%, + 2.68 points), two members states where it was weakest in 2004. It remained the same in the Czech Republic (in spite of a call for abstention on the part of President Vaclav Klaus whose country is ensuring the Presidency of the Council of the EU until 30th June next) and in Slovenia.
Turnout decreased slightly in Hungary (36.29%, -2.15 points). It fell most sharply in Cyprus (59.4%, -11.79 points) where it is compulsory to vote but where the authorities had announced that there would be no sanction in the event of abstention. Turnout collapsed in Lithuania (20.92%, -27.46 points) where voters were called to vote for the third time in eight months (general elections in October 2008 and the presidential election on 17th May 2009). In 2004 the European elections were coupled with the first round of the presidential election.
The increasing indifference to the European election should not however be interpreted as a disinterest with regard to Europe. The States of Central and Eastern Europe where turnout was the lowest are however, according to all Eurobarometer surveys, those in which citizens say they are most satisfied with their country's EU membership and most are in favour of continuing European integration. Low turnout bears witness to the crisis suffered by representative democracy and has to be seen in the light of observations made over several years in the national elections within each Member State. In most of the 27 voters are turning out less and less in national elections.
Of course this data should not prevent us from looking into the reasons why the appointment of the biggest transnational assembly elected by universal suffrage in the world mobilizes so few people. The election's success would require at least four conditions: the clarity of the issues at stake, the existence of common, understandable rules, controlled pluralism and a polarised public debate. None of the latter was met on this occasion. The parties on the left even gave up presenting a candidate for the position of President of the European Commission; many foresaw the re-election of the outgoing president José Manuel Barroso before citizens had even been to vote. The European dimension of the vote, without being totally absent, is still weak. The continuous decline of turnout threatens the legitimacy of the institution whose role has grown over the years, thereby making it urgent to reform the organization of the European elections due to a need for democratization of the Union as expressed by the citizens in the opinion polls.
A landslide victory for the right
The 7th European elections by direct universal suffrage witnessed an easy victory by the right and centre-right forces. In 11 of the Member States where they are in office, they won the election. In Germany the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of Chancellor Angela Merkel won 30.7% of the vote with a ten point lead over its Social Democratic rival (SPD), a result that augurs well for the general elections planned on 27th September next. The Democratic Liberal Party (FDP) can also be pleased since it won 11% ie +4,8 points in comparison with 2004. In France, the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) of President Nicolas Sarkozy won 27.8% of the vote (+11,32 points in comparison with the Socialist Party, PS); in Finland the two government parties, the Conservative Assembly (KOK) and the Centre Party (KESK) won 23.2% and 19% of the vote respectively – the Social Democratic Party won 17.5% (its lowest score since 1962); in Italy the Party of the People of Freedom (PDL) of President of the Council Silvio Berlusconi failed to win 40% but easily forged ahead (35.25% of the vote in comparison with 26.14% for the Democratic Party PD); in the Netherlands the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende with 19.9% of the vote was ahead of its government partner, the Labour Party (PvdA) which won 7.8 points; the Christian Social Party (PCS/CVS) of outgoing Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker won in Luxembourg with 31.33% of the vote in comparison with 19.42% for the Socialist Workers' Party (POSL/LSAP) – the Christian Social Party also won the general elections that took place on the same day as the European election in the Grand Duchy; in Poland the Civic Platform (PO) led by Prime Minister Donald Tusk quashed its rivals by winning 44.43% of the vote (the Law and Justice Party PiS of President Lech Kaczynski won 27.4% of the vote); in Lithuania, the Homeland Union led by Head of Government Andrius Kubilius won 26.8% of the vote (+ 8,2 points in comparison with the Social Democratic Party, LSDP); in Ireland, Brian Cowen's Fianna Fail (24,08%) was beaten but by a rightwing party, Fine Gael (FG) that won 29.13% of the vote and in Belgium, the Flemish Liberals and Democrats (Open VLD) came out ahead nationally (the Socialist Party recovered its place as the leading political force in Wallonia). Finally in the Czech Republic the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) led by previous Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek won 31.45% of the vote far ahead of the Social Democratic Party (CSSD) which won 22.38% of the vote.
Eight Member States governed by the leftwing granted the majority of their votes to the rightwing opposition. In Austria the People's Party (ÖVP) (29.97%) emerged ahead of the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) of Chancellor Werner Faymann (23,81%); in Hungary, the Young Democratic Alliance (Fidesz) crushed the Socialist Party (MZSP) with 56.37%, the latter won 17.38% of the vote; in Spain with 42.23% of the vote the leader of the People's Party (PP) Mariano Rajoy finally succeeded in winning over the Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) of Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero which won 38.51% of the vote; in Portugal the Social Democratic Party (PSD) defeated the polls and won with 31.69% of the vote in the face of the Socialist Party (PS) of the head of government, José Socrates (26.57%) who will be running for another term in office in the autumn; in Bulgaria, the Socialist Party (BSP) of Prime Minister Serguey Stanishev (18.5%) was beaten by Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) that won 24.36% of the vote, (the country is to confirm this vote in the general elections that will take place on 5th July next); in Slovenia, the Social Democratic Party (SD) led by Borut Pahor, Prime Minister since the general elections on 21st September last was beaten by the Democratic Party (SDS) which sits in the opposition with 26.92% of the vote and in the UK Gordon Brown's Labour Party came only third (15.31%) behind the Conservative Party which won 27% of the vote and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) which won 16.09%. In Cyprus the Progressive Workers' Party (AKEL) of President Demetris Christofias (34.9%) was beaten by the Democratic Assembly (DISY) (35,65%).
The results won by the rightwing and centre right are in line with observations made nationally since the end of the 1990's. On the eve of the election the right and the centre right was in power in 2/3 of the Member States (18 out of 27). The response of most governments to the economic crisis (interventionism and protectionism of the State, demands for regulation and moralization of wild capitalism, the nationalization of the banks, increasing public deficit, the establishment of recovery plans) visibly convinced the electorate who considered the right and centre right more credible and having a greater ability to respond to events. In an ageing Europe, the economic crisis undeniably benefited the teams that were already in position.
The Collapse of Social Democracy
The collapse of the Social Democrats, more than the victory of the right and centre-right parties, seems to be the major event in these European elections. The size of the defeat was sometimes significant notably in the "major" countries of the Union: the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) only won 20.8% of the vote (the weakest result in its history), the French Socialist Party (PS) just managed to clinch second place with 16.48% of the vote, the Italian Democratic Party (PD) – although maintaining a better score than forecast in the polls was struggling however (26.14%), finally the British Labour Party continued to decline (15.13%) beaten by the anti-European party UKIP. Gordon Brown's Labour Party even came second in Wales, a first since 1918, as in Scotland where it was beaten by the Scottish National Party (SNP).
Slovakia is the only Member State governed by the left in which the latter managed to win the election. Direction (SMER) led by the extremely popular Prime Minister Robert Fico won 32.02% of the vote, forging easily ahead of his main adversaries.
The rightwing was also the focus of a protest vote in five states: in Greece, a country that is suffering the full force of a political and economic crisis where the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) won 36.7% of the vote in comparison with 32.3% for New Democracy (ND) of Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis, in Malta where the Labour Party (MLP) with 55% beat the Nationalist Party (PN) by 14 points - the latter has been in power for the last 11 years and only just won the March 2008 general elections, in Denmark where the Social Democratic Party won 20.9% of the vote just beating however the Liberal Party of the Head of Government Lars Loekke Rasmussen (19.6%), in Sweden, the Social Democratic Party (SAP) won 24.41% ahead of the Moderate Assembly Party (M) of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt (18.83%) and in Estonia the Centre Party (KE) won 26.4% of the vote in comparison with 15.3% for the Reform Party (RE) of Prime Minister Andrus Ansip.
In Romania (left-right coalition government) the Social Democratic Party (PSD) member of the government coalition won 31.7% of the vote and beat the Liberal Democratic Party (PDL) of Prime Minister Emil Boc and President Traian Basescu (29.71%). The election of Elena Basescu (4.22% of the vote), the Head of State's youngest daughter (who was running as an independent candidate but who chose after 7th June to join the EPP (European People's Party) a group in which the Democratic Liberal Party also sits), enabled the PDL to win an equivalent number of seats to that of the Social Democratic Party (11).
The results of the parties on the left of the left are in line with those of the Social Democrats. In Germany the Left Party (Die Linke), at one time credited with more than 10% of the voting intentions won 7.5%; in France the Left Front (that rallies the Communist Party (PCF) and the Left Party (PG) created at the beginning of the year) won 6% of the vote. In Italy the Communists floundered winning 3.3% and for the first time in their history they will not be sending any MEPs to the Parliament in Strasbourg. The Portuguese Communist Party allied to the Greens (CU-PEV) was the only one to rise above the 10% of the votes cast (10.6%).
In spite of their performance in Belgium (22% in the French-speaking college, +18.3 points and 15% in the Dutch speaking college, +10.1 points), in France (19.91% des suffrages, +11,53 points) and their timid breakthrough in Greece (in 2004 0.6%, in 2009 3.4%), the results achieved by the ecologist parties, which mostly lie to the left of the political scale, do not help to console the Social Democrats. For their part the German (12%) and Dutch ecologists (8.9%) won almost identical results to the ones in 2004. The Greens recorded a slight rise in Finland (12.4%, +2 points), in Luxembourg (16.8%, +1,76 points) and in the UK (8.3%, +2 points) but they declined in the Czech Republic (2.06%, -1.11 points) - a country in which they were members of the previous government led by Mirek Topolanek (ODS) and from which their leader Martin Bursik, former Environment Minister, resigned after the European elections -, in Austria (9.5%, -3.2 points) and in Malta (2.3%, -7.5 points).
In a globalised world the Social Democrats seem unable to offer a real alternative to economic liberalism. The Welfare State is struggling, condemned by its exorbitant cost and the "exhausted social democratic model" according to a term used by sociologist Ralf Dahrendorft in 1989. Moreover the traditional electorate on the left - most affected by the present economic crisis – mostly see the Union as being the root of all their problems. The lower classes are increasingly amongst the abstentionists or are prepared to turn from the left to express their despair. Unable to create neither a new type of government model nor a new social organization the Social Democrats in many countries also have no leader (Italy, France, Germany). To get back into power the left will therefore have to redefine its identity, review its strategy and draw up a new European model.
The Rise of the Far Right Confined to some Countries
As far as extremes are concerned we can see that the far left is treading water; in France the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) credited with over 10% of the voting intentions some months before the election finally only won 4.9%, Lutte Ouvrière (Workers' Struggle) LO won 1.2%. In 2004 both parties that ran on joint lists won 3.33% of the vote. In Luxembourg Dei Lenk-the Left progressed with 3.41% of the vote (+1.73 point); in Greece, the Communist Party (KKE) won 8.35 of the vote (-1.13 point) and the Coalition of the Left Forces and Progress (Synaspismos) won 4.7% of the vote (+0,5 points); in the Netherlands, the Green Left (GL) won 8.9% (+1.51 points ) and the Socialist Party (SP), 7.1% (+ 0.13 points).
The far left is clearly in decline in Sweden where the Left Party (VP) lost 7.14 points (5.66% of the vote). It also fell in Denmark where the Radical Left (RV) lost 2.3 points (4.1 %) and in Finland where the Left Alliance (VAS) won 5.9% (-3.7 points). The only exception being Portugal where the Left Bloc (BE) won 10.73% of the vote (+ 5.54 points), the Communist Party-Green Alliance also won 10.66% of the vote, slightly more than in 2004, (+1.2 points). Sinn Fein, (Ourselves in Gaelic, SF) won in Northern Ireland with 26.04% of the vote an almost identical result to the one achieved in 2004, but which enabled it to pull ahead of the Ulster Democratic Party (DUP), which suffered a sharp decline of 13.67 points and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) which progressed by 0.51 points.
Many analysts see in these European elections a further upsurge by the far right. This must be put into perspective however. The far right parties achieved double figures in eight Member States: in Belgium (28.5% if we add the results of the parties nationally), in the Netherlands (17%), in Hungary (14.7%), in Finland (14%), in Austria (17.37% is the result of the FPÖ and the BZÖ added together), in Denmark (14.8%), in Bulgaria (11.96%) and in Italy (10.22%).
In the Netherlands MP Geert Wilders succeeded in turning his populist, anti-European party, the Freedom Party (PVV) into the country's second political party on the occasion of these European elections. The PVV undertook a campaign against the EU (Less of Europe, more of the Netherlands and never with Turkey) and the "Islamisation of Dutch society". In support of the abolition of the European Parliament it is fighting for the exclusion of Romania and Bulgaria from the EU and the limitation of the European executive to one single Commissioner's post, with the Union only taking care of the single currency and economic cooperation.
The Netherlands, a country reputed for its tolerance and its sense of consensus has been experiencing a deep identity crisis for the last ten years and appears more divided than ever. Alfred Pijpers, a researcher at the Dutch institute for international relations, Clingendael, maintains that the breakthrough by Geert Wilders will strengthen the cohesion between the government parties which in 2002 governed with Pim Fortuyn's party (the populist leader who was murdered in May 2002, 9 days before the general election on 15th May 2002 in which his party the Pim Fortuyn List – LPF –, came second with 26% of the vote). "Even though the Freedom Party won 25% to 30% of the vote, it will not enter government," stressed the political analyst.
With 15% of the vote the Vlaams Belang (VB) improved its 2004 result somewhat (+0.66 points) in Flanders – formerly the Vlaams Blok. The Dedecker List (LDD) led by populist senator Jean-Marie Dedecker succeeded in making a breakthrough with 4.9% of the vote. The New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), which ran together with the Christian Democratic Party (CD&V) in 2004, won 8.21% of the vote in the French speaking college, the National Front (FN) progressed by 1.72 points (4.51%).
The real "surprise" announced by the pre-electoral polls and which was foreseeable in view of the previous elections that took place in the country came from Finland. The True Finns already made a breakthrough in the local elections on 26th October 2008 (5.4% of the vote), thereby becoming the 6th political force in the country, attracting many voters from the Social Democratic Party. "The nightmare has now arrived in our country" stressed political analyst Tuomo Martikainen at the time who added, "people are dissatisfied and deplore the fact that some serious problems have not been settled. They therefore used the local election to protest." The leader of the True Finns, Timo Soini, is also the candidate who won the greatest number of votes on 7th June in Finland (130, 432 ie 50,425 more than Anneli Jäätteenmäki – Centre Party – which came second). In Hungary, the Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik) succeeded brilliantly in riding on the population's discontent. The country is experiencing a serious political and economic crisis and the Social Party (MSZP) in power stands ruined after this European election. The country has a far right tradition: in 1998 the Party for Justice and Life (MIEP) won 5.47% of the vote in the general elections (winning 14 seats in the Hungarian Parliament). In addition to this the far right militia distinguished themselves in violent riots that took place in Hungary in the autumn of 2006. In Austria, the Liberal Party (FPÖ) confirmed the result it achieved in the general elections on 28th September 2008 (18.01%) and progressed by 11.68 points in comparison with 2004. However the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) whose leader Jörg Haider died on 11th October last suffered a decline in comparison with the previous election.
The rise of the far right is also significant in the UK where the British National Party (BNP) won 8.3% of the vote (+3.4 points in comparison with 2004). Nick Griffin's party, which won its first two seats in the Parliament in Strasbourg succeeded because it deployed an anti-establishment campaign, riding on the anger of some of the British against the entire political community that is bogged down in politico-financial scandals. The result of the main opposition party, the Conservatives which did not succeed in achieving its 30% objective, shows how much the recent scandals have affected all of the political parties.
In Italy the Northern League (LN) progressed by 5.36 points in comparison with 2004 winning 10.2% of the vote. In Denmark, the Danish People's Party (DF) recorded a rise of 8 points (14.8% of the vote) but it achieved a stable result in comparison with the two previous general elections. Finally Ataka, a Bulgarian far right party declined in comparison with the European elections that took place 20th May 2007 (12%, -2.2 points).
The far right parties won significant results in other Member States: 8.6% for the Greater Romania Party (PRM) which failed to enter parliament in the last general elections on 28th November 2008, 7% for the People's Orthodox Alarm (LAOS) in Greece (+2.88 points in comparison with 2004)), 6.3% for the National Front in France (-3.51 points) and 5.5% for the Slovakian National Party (SNS). In Lithuania 12.31% of the vote went to For Order and Justice (TT) led by former President of the Republic Rolandas Paksas (impeached as Head of State in April 2004 after having been found guilty of infringing the Constitution and revealing State secrets).
Finally to the complete the set we should remember that in 2004 in Poland the League of Families (LPR) won 15.92% of the vote in Poland. Five years later, the far right parties only achieved 8.9% of the vote together (in comparison with 22.8% in all in 2004) and they will not be represented in the Parliament in Strasbourg. Likewise whilst the end of the electoral campaign focused on identity issues and the Roms in the Czech Republic, the Workers' Party and the National Party only won 1.07% and 0.26% of the vote respectively.
Euro-Sceptics take a back seat
These European elections finally mark a further decline on the part of the Euro-sceptics. The excellent result (and poorly anticipated by the polls) of the list led by Hans-Peter Martin in Austria and that of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) are only exceptions which confirm the rule; more than Euro-sceptic the latter is also deeply anti-European since it is one of the rare parties in Europe to demand that its country leave the Union. In France the National Front views matters in a similar light.
Over the last few months, the assertion of the role of the States in the face of the economic crisis has weakened the arguments put forward by the sovereignists, who are always ready to stand up against a Europe that tries to substitute the nations.
In Austria Hans-Peter Martin improved his 2004 result by 4 points, winning 18% of the vote. The former Social Democratic Party MEP had the support of the Kronen Zeitung during the entire campaign – the latter is a newspaper with 3 million daily readers (43% of the Austrian population that is old enough to read a paper ie in comparison with the population, it is the most read newspaper in the world) and the property of fervent Euro-sceptic Hans Dichand. It was in this newspaper on 26th June 2008, the previous Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer (SPÖ) and the person who replaced him, Werner Faymann (SPÖ) published an open letter in which they expressed their desire to see any modification to the European treaties that affected Austrian interests (including any revision of the Lisbon Treaty, ratified by Austria on 13th May 2008) be submitted to referendum. The Social Democratic Party then allied itself to the country's far right (FPÖ and BZÖ) to vote in Parliament in support of this draft law.
The success of the Hans-Peter Martin list can mainly be explained by the upsurge of Euro-scepticism in Austria within all of the political parties. "The hostility to Europe has become a powerful force in Austria," said political analyst Thomas Hofer in September last. In this European election no party except for the Greens were able to undertake a campaign and speak positively of what membership of the EU had brought the country. In 2006 the Social Democratic Party accused the immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe of being "a danger and of damaging the Austrian social model."
Across the Channel UKIP achieved a similar result to the one it achieved in 2004 (16.1% of the vote). Its second place is rather an illustration of the collapse of the Labour Party than a real rise to power on the part of the anti-European party. Traditionally the European election is the occasion for the Euro-sceptics in the north of the continent (People's Movement, the June Movement in Denmark and the June List in Sweden) to take a headcount. In Denmark two parties have won around 20% of the vote in each European election over the last 20 years. In 2004 they won 13% of the vote. Five years later they only won 9.3%. The People's Movement wants to see Denmark quit the EU whilst the June Movement, which supports the upkeep of membership is fighting to maintain the opting out clauses which Denmark enjoys the use of with regard to the EU and in terms of foreign and security, police and justice policies. Moreover the People's Socialist Party (SF) made considerable progress (15.4%, +7.5 points). Previously a Euro-sceptic party it recently moved over towards a more positive position with regard to European integration. It is still opposed to the Common Agricultural Policy however (CAP) and Denmark's membership of the Economic and Monetary Union. In Sweden the June List that won 14.4% of the vote in 2004 to become the third most important party is clearly declining and only won 3.55% of the vote.
Declan Ganley, founder of the Libertas movement which presented candidates in a number of Member States and boasted that it would win 100 seats in Strasbourg, finally failed in its bid. Libertas has one single MEP in the assembly, Philippe de Villiers, Chair of the Movement for France (MPF). In France where Libertas-Movement for France-Hunting, Fishing and Traditions (MPF-CPNT) won 6.3% of the vote is one of the three most Euro-sceptic countries in the Union. Beaten in Ireland where he was running Declan Ganley announced his withdrawal from political life and said he would not campaign against the Lisbon Treaty during the referendum that will take place on the issue in the autumn. Finally the Czech Republic the Free Citizens Party, a Euro-sceptic party formed in Janaury 2009 by Peter Mach, Director of the Centre for the Economy and Policy, a think-tank that is close to the Czech President Vaclav Klaus (who resigned in December last from his post as honorary President of the Democratic-Civic Party the position of which he deemed far too pro-European), only won 1.26% of the vote.
Other Striking Facts
Firstly in Latvia where two details stand out. There was a breakthrough by the new party, the Civic Union created in 2008 by former European Commissioner Sandra Kalniete, after the division of two rightwing parties, the Homeland Union and Freedom (TB/LNNK) and New Era (JL). The Civic Union came out ahead in the European elections with 24.33% of the vote. The second detail is the high result achieved by the Russian speakers – Harmony Centre (SC) and For Human Rights in a United Latvia (PCTVL) which won 19.57% and 9.66% of the vote respectively, thereby placing in them second and third position. In this country which is undergoing a severe economic crisis voting is greatly divided between the Latvian and Russian speaking electorates (the language is still a major problem) and this is accentuated between the centre and the periphery. Latvia has the biggest Russian speaking minority of the three Baltic States; According to official figures published in July 2004 "pure Latvians" represented 58.7% of the population and the Russian speakers 28.8%. 58.2% of the people speak Latvian as their mother tongue, 37.5% speak Russian. The Russian speakers also form the majority in 7 of the 8 biggest towns in the country. The European election is the only time when the "Russian-speaking" citizens can vote since they have not been granted Latvian nationality. Alfred Rubiks, former Secretary of the Latvian Communist Party imprisoned for high treason in 1991 and 1997 for his support of the Soviet repression during the fight for Latvia's independence and ,who was the lead candidate for the Harmony Centre will therefore have a seat in Strasbourg.
In Estonia Indrek Tarand, son of MEP, Social Democrat Andres Tarand and present director of the War Museum of Estonia who was standing as an independent candidate, came second (25.81% of the vote) just a few votes behind the Centre Party (KE), the country's main opposition party (26.07%). The candidate who is against "the arrogance of party-cracy" and closed lists "with which the parties treat citizens as if they were stupid" rallied a great number of protest votes to his name. Indrek Tarand easily surged ahead in terms of cybervoters (32.25% of electronic votes). Estonia, a pioneer in this area allowed voting by internet in these European elections. Nearly 15% (14.9%) of citizens chose to use a computer to fulfil their civic duty.
Finally we noted the breakthrough in Sweden of the Pirate Party (PP) that won 5.13% of the vote and one MEP in Parliament. Founded in 2006 by Rick Falkvinge, the party fights for "unlicenced free internet access in an open society" and attracted "young" voters who were not very interested in politics and not really motivated by the European elections but who are furious with the condemnation to one year in prison on 17th April last of four managers of an internet file exchange site The Pirate Bay which had undertaken illegal downloads. After the verdict the number of members of the party tripled in Sweden.
The landslide victory of the right and centre right forces across the Union demonstrates the European nature of this election in which nearly 380 million were invited to take part.
Although the continuous decline in turnout is worrying and should make politicians think deeply about how the election is organized across the Union, the stagnation of extremes (except for in specific cases) and the decline of the Euro-sceptics are encouraging and re-assuring factors.
Given the economic crisis European mainly expressed confidence in moderates who put forward European answers to the present problems.