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Hey Brussels: There's a New Circus in Town

Disgruntled voters reject mainstream politics in pan-European elections

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"Earthquake": with a single-word headline, French daily Le Figaro summed up Sunday's seismic shock to Europe's political landscape.

Nazi-inspired bullyboys, far-left firebrands, anti-immigration and anti-EU nationalists, old-style Communist diehards, and a Polish monarchist who wants to deny women the vote: They will all have a home in the new European Parliament.

As final votes were counted, discontented citizens across the 28 EU nations look to have awarded non-mainstream parties over a quarter of the 751 seats in parliament.

"The sovereign people have spoken loud and clear, as in all the great moments of their history," proclaimed Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front which came first in France. "The sovereign people are ready to take destiny in their hands."

Radical right parties also came first in Britain and Denmark, while the far left won in recession-hit Greece.

Anti-establishment populists came second in Italy. In Spain, the two main parties saw their share of the vote fall from over 80 percent to less than half.

Almost unnoticed among scary headlines, the cross-border, center-right European People's Party came first overall with 36 percent of the vote, boosted by yet another win FROM unsinkable German Chancellor Angela Merkel'S CDU, a constituent party.

The center-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats was a distant second on 26 percent.

In theory, center-right candidate Jean-Claude Juncker — a former prime minister of Luxembourg — is in line to become the EU's new top executive, based on the European People's Party's successfully preserved majority.

But his nomination as president of the European Commission is in doubt. Conservatives in Britain, Hungary think Juncker is too-much of a euro-insider. Some pro-Europeans want a stronger personality to counter the euroskeptic surge.

While horse trading gets underway for top jobs at EU headquarters in Brussels, the main impact of the vote will be on national politics in some key European countries.

French President Francois Hollande is under siege. His Socialist Party scored just 14 percent, humiliated by the wave of support for the far right.

With the main center-right UMP party also doing badly, Le Pen is succeeding in detoxify the image of the National Front which was tainted with racism and anti-semitism past under the leadership of her farther Jean-Marie Le Pen.

The younger Le Pen has found it more profitable to focus attacks on the EU — blaming it for France's economic woes and opening borders to immigration. As a result, she is emerging as a real contender in presidential elections scheduled for 2017.

"Action is needed quickly because from now on the big parties, the PS and the UMP, are threatened by a presidential earthquake," said an editorial Monday by veteran journalist Françoise Fressoz in Le Monde. "Unlike her father, Marine Le Pen can conquer the Elysee Palace (France's presidential residence.) People are less and less ashamed of voting for the Front National."

The French mainstream is faced with a choice: confronting Le Pen, or assimilating her calls for less immigration and a roll-back OF EU POWERS.

Le Pen is heading to Brussels on Wednesday to form a group of like-minded parties from across Europe who can work together during the European Parliament's new five-year legislature.

One that won't join her is Britain's victorious UK Independence Party, another euroskeptic winner. UKIP leader Nigel Farage says prejudice and antisemitism part of the National Front's DNA desite Le Pen's clean up campaign.

Their dispute shows how difficult it will be for the disparate euroskeptic forces to forge a united front in the parliament.

UKIP's win marks the first time a party other than Labour or the Conservatives has won a nationwide British election since 1918.

THE PARTY scored 27 percent of the vote, ahead of Labour at 25 percent and the Conservatives of Prime Minister David Cameron at 23 percent.

UKIP have tapped into a rich vein of British dissatisfaction with the European Union, which is seen as an overbearing force imposing rules from its distance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

In particular, Farage has played up concern about immigration from eastern Europe — linking the arrival of Polish and Romanian workers to crime and welfare abuse.

UKIP's triumph however, could have less long-term impact than Le Pen's, particularly domestically.

Britain's parliamentary system makes it difficult for parties to break into the two-party domination in the House of Commons.

Polls suggest voters' may be less likely to back Farage's euroskeptic upstarts in general elections expected next year, or in a referendum on pullout of the EU, which Cameron plans in 2017.

Way to right of UKIP, parties gaining ground elsewhere in Europe include Fascist-style Jobbik group in Hungary that got 15 percent, and Greece's Golden Dawn which won 9 percent despite its leader being in jail for running a criminal organization. The white supremacist National Democratic Party of Germany won a seat for the first time.

Things didn't run smooth for the far right across Europe. They lost seats in Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands. With the exception of Hungary and a few isolated successes by the likes of misogynist monarchist Janusz Korwin-Mikke in Poland, there was no significant far right showing in eastern Europe.

Some suggest the vote could mark a high water mark for anti-EU forces whose support has been boosted by Europe's economic crisis.

"The results ... do fit the view that anti-EU sentiment will recede somewhat over coming years as the economic upswing gains momentum and many countries reap the rewards of their painful reforms," wrote Holger Schmieding, chief economist for the German bank Berenberg. "With the potential exception of France which hasn’t had a lot of reforms yet."

In one of the most significant results, Italy's center-left Prime Minister Matteo Renzi received a ringing endorsement for his reform program and pro-European message.

Renzi captured 41 percent, more than the combined score of the euroskeptic Five-Star Movement and the conservatives of ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

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