TOPICS > World

Swinging both right and left, anti-EU sentiment sweeps Europe’s parliamentary elections

May 26, 2014 at 6:36 PM EDT
eu1
LISTEN SEE PODCASTS

TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: An anti-European Union tide swept through the European parliamentary elections this weekend.

In Great Britain, the United Kingdom Independence Party shocked the Labor and Conservative parties with a surprise victory. And there were more anti-establishment wins on the continent.

Matt Frei of Independent Television News is in Paris and filed this report.

MATT FREI, ITN: A drooping flag under leaden skies, with the promise of more rain, that just about sums up the mood in Paris this morning. The tourists are still doing what tourists do, and the traffic on the Champs-Elysees is still terrible.

But the political landscape here has changed, perhaps forever. It’s all thanks to them, the Le Pen father and daughter. Once, they were shunned by the political establishment as a freak show on the fringes of national politics. Now they’re guzzling the bubbly with a giddiness of freshly made history. Champagne. What else? Their anti-Europe, anti-immigrant, anti-Paris elite message has struck a chord.

And this morning, Marine Le Pen read the establishment the riot act.

MARINE LE PEN, President, National Front Party (through interpreter): They cannot ignore the lessons of this ballot and its incredible rejection of the Socialist Party in power, but also of the entire so-called traditional political class.

MATT FREI: At about the same time in Copenhagen, the Danish People’s Party and their star candidate, the unforgettably named Morten Messerschmidt, were also celebrating some historic numbers on the back of an anti-immigrant, anti-E.U. message.

If the swingers were not to the far right, they were to the far left. In Greece, the Syriza Party rode to victory was on an anti-austerity, anti-Berlin clarion call, best summed up as, we don’t want to become German’s colony.

ALEXIS TSIPRAS, Leader, Syriza Party (through interpreter): This is a historic day for our people. They have made a clear and brave verdict that despite the unprecedented propaganda of fear, they condemned the Samaras government and the policies of the bailout, and for the first time in history, it raised the left to first place, and what a significant difference.

MATT FREI: But the swings were mostly to the right, and nowhere did they hurt more than in Paris, the spiritual home of the European Union, and here at the home of a president who enjoys approval ratings consistently below 20 percent.

Of course, the success of the National Front is very much the failure of the man residing currently in that building behind me, the Elysee Palace. Now, Francois Hollande has not only failed to revive France’s economic pulse after the great recession. He’s also, almost uniquely, managed to upset two groups of people, the rich, who feel overtaxed, and the poor, who continue to feel underemployed.

This morning, he summoned an emergency meeting of his Cabinet. His prime minister, Manuel Valls, newly appointed to stop the hemorrhaging of support, called the result a political earthquake.