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Conservatives gain in European parliament vote

A record low turnout of only 43 percent of 375 million eligible voters pointed to skepticism about a more integrated Europe.

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Voters in Europe turned out in the lowest numbers in 30 years in European parliamentary elections – indicating continued apathy or skepticism over Europe's 736-member political body, and about the larger project of an integrated Europe itself. The low turnout appeared to benefit an assortment of center-right and extreme-right parties across Europe – including a whopping 17 percent of the vote in the Netherlands for the anti-Islamic Freedom Party of Geert Wilders, and the first two seats for the anti-immigrant British National Party, some of whose members deny the Holocaust.

The outcome was viewed Monday as a minor disaster for center-left parties in Europe, which expected to benefit from a championing of stimulus packages at a time of economic distress. European socialist parties dropped from 217 to 163 seats, with even their own leaders decrying an inability to find sustainable policies that captured the public imagination at a time of high unemployment.

Moreover, the 43 percent of Europeans that voted registered a leitmotif of general disgruntlement with ruling parties in all but eight of the 27 European Union member states on the losing side of ballot totals. Voters did support, albeit weakly, the center-right governments of President Nicolas Sarkozy in France, Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany, and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Italy.


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