THE ELECTIONS across Europe showed the same phenomenon-people punishing the government, whether it was centre right or centre left. In France the opposition Socialist Party took 30 percent of the vote as the right wing governing party of president Jacques Chirac slumped to 16.8 percent.
In Germany Gerhard Schroeder's SPD received just 21.5 percent while the right wing opposition Christian Democrats got 44.5 percent. In Poland, one of the new EU members, the governing party received just 11 percent of the vote in a 30 percent turnout.
Millions of people looked to left wing alternatives. In Italy the anti-war movement and huge strikes against the right wing government were reflected at the polls. The vote for prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party fell to 21 percent from 29.4 percent in the 2001 general election.
The centre left Ulivo got 31.3 percent. The far left Rifondazione Comunista won 1.85 million votes, 6.1 percent. It got two more MEPs to take its total to five. The Italian Communists, a party just to the right of Rifondazione, got 2.4 percent of the vote.
The United Left in Spain won 4.2 percent of the vote and two MEPs. 'In Holland, in general, it was a victory for the left,' says Pepijn Branbon. 'The hated right wing parties lost, especially the government parties. The Socialist Party, which is anti-war and against neo-liberalism, gained two MEPs. The right wing Pim Fortuyn List, which was such a threat two years ago, has almost disappeared.'
'In Ireland there was a massive vote for the left against the government,' says Richard Boyd Barrett. 'The leading right wing party Fianna Fail got hammered in the European and local elections. In Dublin the combined vote of Labour, the Greens, Sinn Fein and the Socialist Party was bigger than the two right wing parties. The main beneficiaries were Sinn Fein and the Labour Party. In the council elections four Socialist Party candidates won seats, and other socialists, including Socialist Workers Party members, just missed out in eight or nine wards.'
In France the rise in the Socialist Party's vote saw the far left list involving Lutte Ouvriere and the LCR squeezed. It won 3.3 percent of the vote, but lost its four MEPs. The French Communist Party saw its vote fall from 6.8 percent to 5.2 percent. The PDS, which came from the old Communist Party, increased its share of MEPs from six to seven in Germany.
In Portugal the Left Block gained one European Parliament seat. In Greece the Communist Party got 9 percent of the vote, holding on to its three MEPs. Another left party, Synaspismos, got 4.1 percent, but lost one of its two MEPs. The Anti-Capitalist Alliance, a new organisation, got 12,000 votes.
There were mixed results for Europe's far right parties, which still remain a danger. The Austrian Freedom Party lost four of its five European seats. The Nazi French National Front got 9.8 percent of the vote-a fall from its electoral gains in the 2002 presidential elections.
The Vlaams Blok in Belgium won one more MEP, bringing them to a total of three. In Greece the far right won an MEP for the first time. Anti-war mood in Italy