Ruling liberal/leftist parties have been punished in EU-wide elections, the first such vote since the world went into economic turmoil. In almost every country, right and even far-right candidates gained ground in the EU parliament.

The UK labour party — which is in disarray following scandal and the resignation of several chiefs just in the last week — had a horrible night. Conservatives walloped the party of incumbent Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and even the ultra right British National Party picked up a seat, its first in the EU parliament.

The story was much the same elsewhere.

AP: With most votes counted in Austria, the main rightist party was gaining strongly while the Social Democrats, the main party in the governing coalition, lost substantial ground.

The big winner was the rightist Freedom Party, which more than doubled its strength over the 2004 elections to 13 per cent of the vote. It campaigned on an anti-Islam platform, with posters proclaiming “The Occident in Christian hands” and describing Sunday as “the day of reckoning.”

In the Netherlands, exit polls predicted Geert Wilders’ anti-Islamic party would win more than 15 per cent of the country’s votes, bruising a ruling alliance of Conservatives and Socialists.

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