The British and Dutch got EU elections underway yesterday and gave only mixed support to the rise of the right.
An exit poll from the Netherlands showed the anti-Islam, Eurosceptic Freedom Party of Geert Wilders’ – which plans to forge an alliance with France’s far-right National Front – had fallen well short of its goal of topping the poll and may even have slumped into fourth place. That would give it three out of the 26 Dutch seats in the EU assembly, down from four in the last elections held in 2009, when it came in second place.
Britain’s anti-EU UKIP seems to be doing much better. There were no indications of how the EU parliamentary vote had gone in Britain, we’ll have to wait for Sunday for that, but parallel local government election results showed a surge in support for the party.
With those results still coming in, Nigel Farage’s party – many call it a one-man band – had secured a net gain of 90 local council seats and was winning well over 20 percent of the vote, mainly at the expense of the ruling Conservatives.
If it performs even more strongly in the EU poll, UKIP will heap pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron to adopt a more extreme position on repatriating powers from the EU and possibly change the dynamics of a planned in-out referendum in 2017.
Given UKIP’s signature policy of withdrawing from the EU, there is some reason to think it will fare even better in that vote.
In terms of the national picture, the early local government results do not suggest that the opposition Labour party has done well enough to be confident of winning national elections next year.