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Conservatives smiling

world Updated: Jun 07, 2009 23:50 IST
Michael Weissentein & Robert Wielaard

Europe was leaning to the right ahead of European Parliament elections on Sunday, with voters in many countries favoring conservative parties against a backdrop of economic crisis.

Opinion polling showed right-leaning governments with edges over their opposition in Germany, Italy and France. Conservative opposition parties were tied or ahead in Britain, Spain, and some smaller countries.

The parliament has evolved over the past 50 years from a consultative legislature to one with the right to vote on or amend two-thirds of all EU laws. But for many voters and politicians, the Europe-wide elections were most important as a snapshot of national political sentiment.

High unemployment across Europe has increased voter dissatisfaction with mainstream national parties, and skepticism over the EU's power to help spur recovery.

Polls predicted record low turnout and small but symbolically important gains for far-right groups and other fringe parties in countries from Britain to Hungary.

Groups like the all-white British National Party could use EU assembly seats as a platform for extremist views.