Far-right parties gain in European elections

(JTA) — Far-right parties across Europe won an increased share of the vote in elections for the European Parliament.

Centrist, pro-European Union parties won a majority of Sunday’s vote led by the conservative European People’s Party. Far-right parties made significant gains, however, in France, the United Kingdom and Greece, among other nations.

In Greece, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party finished third despite a government crackdown on its leadership and will send three representatives to the European Parliament. With 96 percent of the vote counted by Monday morning, Golden Dawn had won 9.4 percent of the popular vote, up from the 7 percent it won in the 2012 national elections, according to official results.

The results, taken together with a solid showing by Golden Dawn in last week’s municipal polls, dashed hopes that the crackdown would dent popular support for the party, which has been blamed for dozens of attacks on immigrants in Greece. Many of the party’s leaders had been jailed, and its 18 members of parliament had been stripped of their parliamentary immunity.

In France, the far-right National Front won a plurality of the vote with 26 percent, spurring Socialist President Francois Hollande to seek an urgent meeting of top government ministers. National Front leader Marine Le Pen called for new national elections. Le Pen is the daughter of party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has been convicted several times for Holocaust denial.

The U.K. Independence Party was forecast to win 30 percent of the vote, up from 18 percent in the 2009 elections. The party wants Britain to withdraw from the European Union.

Dutch politician Geert Wilders and his right-populist, anti-Islam Party for Freedom suffered a setback, finishing fourth and losing two seats. The party now has three representatives on the European Parliament out of the Netherlands’ 26 total seats.

Wilders plans to form a European Freedom Alliance with the National Front and like-minded parties across Europe.

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