BRUSSELS – Europe was leaning to the right Sunday as tens of millions of people voted in European Parliament elections, with conservative parties favored in many countries against a backdrop of economic crisis.
Opinion polling showed right-leaning governments with edges over their opposition in Germany, Italy, France, Belgium and elsewhere. Conservative opposition parties were tied or ahead in Britain, Spain and some smaller countries.
For many, 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 economic recovery.
Polls ahead of Sunday's vote showed German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats leading the center-left Social Democrats in Germany, which holds national elections in September. Merkel hopes to form a center-right government after the national vote with the pro-business Free Democrats.
Voters in Germany are more concerned about the costs of financial intervention than the commitment to job preservation favored by the Social Democrats, said Tanja A. Boerzel, a political scientist at Berlin's Free University.
In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative UMP party has steadily held the lead in polls, with the Socialist Party second.
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi's Freedom People's Party held a two-digit lead over his main center-left rival in the most recent polling despite a deep recession and a scandal over allegations he had an inappropriate relationship with an 18-year-old model. Analysts saw Berlusconi's tough stance against illegal immigration as a vote getter.
In Britain, dissident Labour legislators said a plot to oust Prime Minister Gordon Brown could accelerate after the party's expected dismal results in the European elections are announced.
Opponents say the Labour leader has been so tainted by the economic crisis and a scandal over lawmakers' expenses that the opposition Conservatives are virtually guaranteed to win the next national election, which must be called by June 2010.