Marine Le Pen, France's National Front political party
head, reacts to results after the polls closed in the
European Parliament elections at the party's headquarters
in Nanterre, near Paris. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
Marine Le Pen's far right National Front has scored a
stunning first victory in European Parliament elections in
France as critics of the European Union registered a
continent-wide protest vote against austerity and mass
Without waiting for the final result, a sombre French Prime
Minister Manuel Valls went on television to call the
breakthrough by the anti-immigration, anti-euro party in one
of the EU's founding nations "an earthquake" for France and
Far right and hard left parties, their scores magnified by a
low turnout of 43.1 percent, gained ground in many countries
although in Germany, the EU's biggest member state with the
largest number of seats, the pro-European centre ground held
firm, according to exit polls.
A jubilant Le Pen, whose party beat President Francois
Hollande's ruling Socialists into third place, told
supporters: "The people have spoken loud and clear... they no
longer want to be led by those outside our borders, by EU
commissioners and technocrats who are unelected.
"They want to be protected from globalisation and take back
the reins of their destiny."
The National Front was set to win more than 25 percent of the
vote, comfortably ahead of the conservative opposition UMP on
21 percent, with the Socialists on 14.5 percent, their second
defeat in two months after losing dozens of town halls in
With first official results from around the 28-nation bloc
due late on Sunday evening, pro-European centre-left and
centre-right parties seemed sure to maintain control of the
751-seat EU legislature, but the number of Eurosceptic
members may double.
The centre-right European People's Party, led by former
Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, was on track
to win 211 seats, early projections of the vote by the
The centre-left Socialists led by outgoing European
Parliament President Martin Schulz of Germany were seen in
second place with 193 seats.
The political fallout may be felt more strongly in national
politics than at EU level, pulling mainstream conservative
parties further to the right and raising pressure to crack
down on immigration.
Denmark's anti-immigration far right People's Party was set
to top the poll with an estimated 23 percent and the
extreme-right Jobbik, widely accused of racism and
anti-Semitism, was running second in Hungary with 15 percent.
The UK Independence Party, which campaigns for Britain to
leave the EU, was set for a strong score after making big
gains in local elections held at the same time on Thursday,
raising pressure on Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron
ahead of a general election next year.
In one apparent exception to the trend, the anti-Islam,
Eurosceptic Dutch Freedom Party of Geert Wilders' - which
plans to forge an alliance with Le Pen - fell well short of
its goal of topping the poll.
Although 388 million Europeans were eligible to vote, average
turnout was officially estimated at 43.1 percent, barely
higher than the 2009 nadir of 43.0 percent, despite efforts
to personalise the election with all the mainstream political
families putting forward a leading candidate or
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats
were set to secure 36 percent of the vote, down from a
23-year-high of 41.5 percent in last year's federal election
but still a clear victory. The centre-left Social Democrats,
her coalition partners, were forecast to take 27.5 percent.
The anti-euro Alternative for Germany (AfD) won parliamentary
representation for the first time with an estimated 6.5
percent, the best result so far for a conservative party
created only last year.
"Germany has cast a clear pro-Europe vote and the high
turnout is a good signal for the idea of European unity,"
said David McAllister, the top Christian Democrat candidate.
GREEK FAR LEFT GAINS
It was a different story in Greece, epicentre of the euro
zone's debt crisis, where the radical left anti-austerity
Syriza movement of Alexis Tsipras was set to win with 26.7
percent, pushing governing New Democracy into second place on
That reflected popular anger at harsh spending cuts the
government has adopted in recent years to meet the terms of
its EU/IMF bailout programme.
The surge in support for the far left raises doubts about how
much longer the coalition government can last with a
parliamentary majority of just two seats, although government
spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said it would endure.
"It's easy for people to cast a protest vote in European
elections," he told Greek television. "The political scenario
of a government collapse, which Syriza was trying to paint,
has not been borne out by the facts."
The two parties in the coalition, New Democracy and PASOK,
won a combined vote larger than that of Syriza.
Sunday was the fourth and final day of voting in elections to
the European Parliament, which is an equal co-legislator with
member states on most EU laws.
Far-right and radical left groups were expected to secure up
to a quarter of the seats, enough to gain a much louder voice
but probably not to block EU legislation.
Officials said final results and seat allotments would likely
not be finalised until later on Monday.
The record low turnout was in Slovakia, with just 13 percent.
The highest was 90 percent in Belgium, where voting is
compulsory and there was a general election on the same day.
Sweden appeared to have elected the only feminist party
member of the EU assembly.