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News Monday, 14 June, 1999, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
Centre-right hails Euro triumph
The domination of Europe by the social democratic centre-left suffered a serious setback as results of the European Parliament elections showed centre-right gains across much of the EU.

The European People's Party - the centre-right bloc in the Parliament - emerged as the largest force in the assembly.

The election saw the socialist group - the centre-left and previously largest bloc in the Parliament - hit hard by losses in the UK, Germany and Greece.

Finals results on Monday gave the centre-right European People's Party, which groups Christian Democrats with Conservatives, 224 seats in the 626-member assembly, a sharp rise from the 201 it held in the last assembly.

It will replace the socialists, whose share plummeted to 180 seats from 214, as the largest bloc in the parliament.

The Liberals, the third largest group, held 44 seats and smaller groups also has significant success at the polls.

The Greens gained nine seats, moving to fourth place in the parliament, while the Union for Europe, comprised mainly of French Gaullists, fell from fourth to fifth place with 34 seats, a loss of 18.

The seat division may still change depending on whether smaller groups join one of the two main factions but it is expected that the centre-right will remain the largest force.

The EEP has heralded the result as a "historic shift in power".

Socialist defeats

In Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder suffered comprehensive defeat at the polls, as the opposition conservatives trounced his "red-green" coalition in its first test since coming to power last autumn.

Germany's opposition Christian Democrats won 48.5% against the 31% polled by Chancellor Schröder's Social Democrats. Their Green coalition partners slipped to 6.5% of the vote, down from 10% in 1994.

The biggest socialist losses came in the UK, where the introduction of proportional representation, a turnout of 23% and an apparent revival in the fortunes of the opposition Conservative Party cost the ruling Labour Party almost half of its seats.

The opposition Conservatives, who suffered a dramatic collapse in support at the 1997 general election, beat Labour into second place and doubled its own share of seats to become the largest UK party in Brussels.

(For more on the UK results click here)

And in Greece Socialist Prime Minister Costas Simitis conceded defeat to the opposition New Democracy party.

Exit polls indicated New Democracy would oust PASOK as the country's leading party in Strasbourg, scoring between 35% and 37% of the vote, while PASOK would win between 32.5% and 35.3%.

But socialists maintained their position in France, Portugal and Sweden.

In France, the socialists of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin comfortably headed off President Jacques Chirac's conservatives, who scored just 12.7% of the vote, their worst performance in two decades of direct elections to the European Parliament.

In Italy, opposition parties grouped under the Freedom Alliance and led by media magnate Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party won around 39% of the vote, while left-wing parties won around 35%, according to estimates.

In Spain, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's Popular Party retained its position ahead of the opposition Socialists.

Portugal's ruling Socialist Party reinforced its position, out-distancing the Social Democratic Party.

Opposition Conservatives also beat the ruling Social Democrats in Finland, while Sweden's Social Democrats lost ground but remained the largest group.

In Austria, the conservative People's Party was overtaken by Chancellor Viktor Klima's Social Democratic Party, but the real loser appeared to be far-right leader Joerg Haidar and his Freedom Party.

Seat for Santer

In Denmark, the anti-European right-wing group, the Danish People's Party won one seat to join two other Danish anti-EU groups in the parliament.

The country's opposition Liberal Party became the country's largest group of MEPs while the ruling Social Democrats and their government coalition partner, the centrist Radical Party, retained their seats

Italian glamour: Actress Gina Lollobrigida is one of the candidates
Italian glamour: Actress Gina Lollobrigida spiced up the campaign
In Belgium, the Christian Democrats moved ahead of the Socialists for the first time in 20 years.

In national voting held at the same time, Belgium's centre-left government suffered a humiliating defeat and Luxembourg's socialists seemed likely to lose their places in the next coalition government.

The former head of the European Commission Jacques Santer, who was forced to resign in March by MEPs, won a seat in the new assembly as a Christian Democrat from Luxembourg, where he used to be prime minister.

Despite the change in the respective position of the two biggest groups, the results will likely make little difference to the way business is done in Brussels and Strasbourg.

Both major blocs will continue to have to seek allies to rally majorities.

Across the EU the vote, which followed a campaign overshadowed by the conflict in Kosovo, was marked by a high level of apathy with less than half the electorate turning out in most countries.

About 50% of voters turned out -- the lowest figure since the European Parliament became a directly elected body in 1979.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Audio
European Affairs Specialist William Horsley: "To vote or not to vote"
Video
The BBC's Angus Roxburgh: "A significant swing in many countries"
Audio
The European Parliament's Socialist leader, Pauline Green: "Not such a good night across Europe"
Video
The BBC's Angus Roxburgh: "The low turnout across Europe should ring alarm bells"
Audio
Political analyst Klaus Goetz: "It's the SPD's worst result in European elections ever"
See also:

14 Jun 99 | News
14 Jun 99 | News
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