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Europe's shift to the right
Why conservatives, far-right fringe parties, and Swedish pirates won big in EU elections
T

hese are happy days for "populist, fringe, and hard-right politicians" in Europe, said The Economist. Four days of European Parliament elections in 27 nations ended late Sunday with center-right parties holding steady and the far right—including the "avowedly racist" British National Party—gaining ground. But the big surprise was the "appalling results" for leftists, who somehow failed to "take advantage of a financial crisis that might have been tailor-made for critics of free market excesses."

"Capitalism triumphed, at least in its mushy European form," said Anne Applebaum in Slate, in part because European conservatives—unlike their counterparts in the U.S.—"don't spend like drunken sailors." It's risky to infer too much from EU elections, because relatively few people vote (that's why "fringe" and protest parties do "unusually well"), but the broad failure of the left, and strong results for a center-right at least "trying to keep some semblance of budget sanity," tells an "unusually consistent story."

Still, politics is local, said Nicholas Carlson in Silicon Alley Insider, as demonstrated in the capture of a European Parliament seat by Sweden's Pirate Party. Rickard Falkvinge, the leader of the copyright-reform party, attributes his party's success to publicity from the April conviction of the four men behind file-sharing site the Pirate Bay.

Then there's the "colorful Geert Wilders," whose anti-Islam party came in a close second place in the Netherlands, said Mark Leonard in The Wall Street Journal, despite its goal of abolishing the European Parliament. Anti-EU winners were actually pretty common, and now make up a "substantial minority" of the parliament. So while the headlines focused on the triumph of center-right parties, this election "is more likely to be remembered for the election of so many self-hating parliamentarians."

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