Populists' EU breakthrough fails, greens and liberals gain


Pro-European parties kept a firm grip on the EU parliament on Monday as liberal and green parties matched a surge by eurosceptic parties, who won control of a quarter of seats in European elections for the first time. Right now, the main issue uniting those occupying Europe's center ground is their refusal to work with far-right groups whose ranks are made up of nationalist parties led by the likes of Matteo Salvini in Italy and Marine Le Pen in France, whose parties celebrated landmark triumphs as results emerged Sunday night and into Monday morning from four days of voting for the 751-seat European Parliament.

Turnout was at the highest in 20 years, at 50.5 percent, according to preliminary figures from across all 28 member states - bucking the trend of a steady decline since the elections were first held in 1979.

Nigel Farage's Brexit Party was in the lead, while the pro-Europe Liberal Democrats came in second.

FIGHT FOR EU POSTS Provisional results for the EU Parliament put the EPP on 182 seats, ahead of the S&D on 147, with the liberals on 109, up 41 seats, and Greens on 69, up 17.

As the dust settled on the vote, attention turned to landing top EU roles for the next five years: presidencies of the commission and the European Council, the speaker of parliament, the high representative for foreign policy and head of the European Central Bank.

European Union leaders are meeting in Brussels on Tuesday night to discuss how best to fill the bloc's top jobs for the parliament's new term.

Elsewhere, Macron met with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Monday to exchange views about the allocation of positions. Presenting great results from his home country the Netherlands, Timmermans disagreed with Weber's reading on stability, claiming that the EPP leader just wishes to keep things as they are.

Across Europe, the various populist euroskeptic and right-wing parties won more than 150 seats between them, but with differing platforms and priorities, form no coherent parliamentary coalition. The party could also win a third seat - if and when Britain completes its departure from the bloc and the British seats are redistributed.

Investor sentiment was bolstered by the smaller than expected gains by populist parties.

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The boost in numbers is partly down to French president Emmanuel Macron's En Marche party joining the alliance, with Romania's USR-PLUS party, led by ex-commissioner and former prime minister Dacian Ciolos, also joining.

Her party said it "aimed to deliver on green action, social Europe and democracy".

Over the weekend, the countries making up the European Union held elections for representatives to the EU parliament. In April, Farage said that he would use the European elections as a launch pad for his party to fight for changes in the United Kingdom political system, which failed to deliver the country's exit from the European Union. The French far right's percentage score was down on 2014.

However, pro-EU parties were still in the majority, with the French Greens coming third.

Party co-leader Isabella Lovin, however, said the Greens had won back support after the hammering in last September's general election when the party scored just over 4 per cent after four years in government.

Normally considered "second-tier" elections by voters who have often used them to vent their frustration with their national governments, this year's elections have generated an unusual level of debate amid the rise of nationalist and far-right parties that have made strides at the national level in several European countries.

In a previous interview with The Globe and Mail, Bannon said the leaders of the nationalist parties don't want to leave the European Union, but want to reform it.

Added to the dazzling second place of their German counterparts, that lent credibility to expectations of a "green wave" that will influence policy in Brussels in the coming years -promoting controls on industrial polluters of the air, seas and land and tightening terms for European Union trade deals with others. "In Germany, obviously, they always have to be seen in a certain context, in the context of our past, which means we have to be that much more vigilant than others".

"We are facing a shrinking centre", said German conservative Manfred Weber, lead candidate for the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as European Commission chief.