Anti-Turk Dutch party gains votes

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Anti-Turk Dutch party gains votes
Oluşturulma Tarihi: Haziran 06, 2009 00:00

THE HAGUE - A far-right, anti-Turkish Dutch party gets 17 percent of the vote and gains four seats in unofficial results for the European Parliament as 27 EU nations finish voting over the weekend amid widespread fears of far-right gains and low turnout. Turkey meanwhile reacts to European parties campaigning against its EU membership bid.

Dutch far-right lawmaker Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom, or PVV, emerged as the big winner in the European elections in the Netherlands, taking almost 17 percent of the vote and four seats in its first-ever campaign, exit polls showed Friday.

If the results are confirmed, they will alarm European Union officials, who fear a low turnout across the 27-nation bloc could boost extremist parties and undermine confidence in the EU's leaders, already under fire for their handling of the crisis.

The Netherlands and Britain were the first countries to vote in a four-day election in which 375 million people are eligible to cast ballots, and the majority of states will vote on Sunday.

Maenwhile, the European Commission says it is demanding the Netherlands explain why it released national results for European elections before other EU nations finished voting. EU spokesman Amadeu Altafaj Tardio says the publication of unofficial Dutch data late Thursday did "not comply with the spirit" of the EU vote. Under EU rules, nations release the official results of European elections at the end of the four-day election period on Sunday.

Violation of EU rules

Commission officials would not say Friday what steps they could take if the Dutch were found to have violated EU rules. Countries that run foul of EU laws can face legal action in the EU's Court of Justice. Dutch authorities escaped a lawsuit after releasing unofficial results during the 2004 EU elections.

The Dutch government said Friday it would explain to the European Commission its release of preliminary results as it insisted voters had the right to know the outcome speedily. "Discussions are underway with the European Commission," ministry spokesman Tijs Manten said after the commission had asked the Netherlands for clarification. "We will give them an explanation. We believe that voters have the right to know the results speedily."

Dutch and British voters on Thursday kicked off four days of voting across Europe to choose the 736 members of the European Parliament, the only directly elected EU institution.

While the British results will not be released until all 27 EU nations have finished voting on Sunday, preliminary results from the Netherlands were published as they were counted. Official Dutch results will be released next Thursday after confirmation by the electoral council, said Manten.

Geert Wilders' anti-immigration party’s gain on the first day of a European Parliament election is expected to punish governments struggling to cope with the global economic crisis. With 92 percent of the votes counted, the PVV was set to take four of the 25 Dutch seats in the European parliament, but this may still increase to five when the final votes are in.

Polls issued put the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders in second place in the Netherlands. It had none in the last assembly.

"This is fantastic, a great day for the people who crave another Netherlands, another Europe," Wilders said. He had promised earlier on Thursday that Turkey would not join the Union: "Not in 10 years, not in a million years."

The main parties in the ruling center-right coalition lost seats, but the Christian Democrats remained ahead of the Freedom Party with five seats. The biggest Dutch party remains the Christian Democrats, with 20 percent of the vote and five seats, compared with seven in the last European elections.

The other big winner is the Liberal Democratic party D66, which is poised to take three seats compared with just one in the last election. D66 fought a staunchly pro-European campaign. "There has been a clear no vote and a clear yes vote," party leader Alexander Pechtold said. But he pointed out that the anti-Europe parties had won just eight of the 25 Dutch seats. 'Europe is the big winner tonight,' he said.

The left-wing greens GroenLinks are also poised to take three seats, an increase from one.

Many Dutch are concerned about Muslim immigration, the growing influence of Brussels over Dutch laws and Dutch taxpayers' contributions to the EU budget. Dutch voters rejected a draft constitution for Europe four years ago. Despite Wilders' success, an opinion poll showed the center-right European People's Party was likely to remain the largest group in the parliament with 262 seats - just over one third of places.

Ankara slams EU campaigns

In a belated statement released Friday, Turkey slammed European parties campaigning against its European Union membership bid in the European Parliament elections, accusing them of "fanning xenophobia." Without giving names, the Foreign Ministry said Ankara was "following with regret the negative statements and rhetoric about Turkey's European Union membership process in some countries."

The statement denounced "meaningless formulae" to offer Ankara alternatives to full EU membership such as privileged partnership or broader cooperation between the 27-member bloc and Mediterranean countries.

"Turkey rejects that rhetoric, which has nothing to do with goodwill," the statement read.

"Using that rhetoric in election campaigns creates a climate misleading the European voter and fanning xenophobia," it read.

The leaders of EU heavyweights France and Germany have been particularly vocal in their opposition to Turkey's accession.
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