BRUSSELS, (Reuters) – Marine Le Pen’s far right National Front scored a stunning first victory in European Parliament elections in France yesterday as critics of the European Union registered a continent-wide protest vote against austerity and mass unemployment.
Without waiting for the final result, 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 Europe.
Anti-establishment far right and hard left parties, their scores magnified by another low turnout, 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 March.
First official results from around the 28-nation bloc showed the pro-European centre-left and centre-right parties will keep control of the 751-seat EU legislature, but the number of Eurosceptic members will more than double.