Iceland’s centre-right opposition parties are set for a return to power with nearly all votes counted after Saturday’s parliamentary election.
The Independence party has 26% and the Progressive party 24%, putting them on track to win nearly 40 of the 63 seats.
The ruling Social Democrats are trailing with around 13%.
It is a dramatic comeback for the parties widely blamed for Iceland’s economic meltdown in 2008.
Iceland saw its prosperity evaporate, as the country’s three banks collapsed, and the Social Democrats came to power a year later, with a programme of austerity tailored to international lenders’ requirements.
“The Independence party has been called to duty again,” said leader Bjarni Benediktsson, who looks likely to become prime minister.
“We’ve seen what cutbacks have done for our healthcare system and social benefits … now it’s time to make new investments, create jobs and start growth,” he said.
“I’m very pleased,” said Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, leader of the Progressive party, as results came in.
Iceland’s centre-right opposition parties are set for a return to power with nearly all votes counted after Saturday’s parliamentary election
The centre-right camp has promised debt relief and a cut in taxes.
The two parties are also seen as Eurosceptic, and their poll success could slow down Iceland’s efforts to become a member of the European Union.
The Eurosceptics argue that Iceland already gets most of the benefits of full membership through existing free trade arrangements with the EU and by being part the Schengen visa-free travel zone.
Many Icelanders have become frustrated with the outgoing Social Democrat government, saying that its austerity policies were too painful.
A number of smaller parties have performed well, including Bright Future, which looks set to enter parliament with six seats and the computer activist Pirate party, with three.
The Social Democrats are on course for nine seats and the Left-Greens seven.
Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti is to lead a coalition of centre parties going into Italy’s parliamentary election in February.
Speaking to reporters after four hours of talks with centrist politicians, he said he was willing to be “named leader of the coalition”.
Mario Monti resigned after 13 months as prime minister when predecessor Silvio Berlusconi withdrew his support.
The Vatican newspaper backs Mario Monti’s bid to return as prime minister.
Mario Monti clearly threw his hat into the political ring at a news conference on Friday evening.
“A new political formation has been born,” Mario Monti said.
A single reform list, grouping together centrist parties, would stand for election to the Senate under the provisional title “Monti’s agenda for Italy”, he said.
But in the lower house, the chamber of deputies, there would be a coalition of centrist parties, including the Christian Democrat UDC.
As senator for life, Mario Monti cannot stand for election, but he is able to take part in the campaign and could return to the post of prime minister if a centrist coalition were successful.
He was brought in to form a technocratic government last year after the government of Silvio Berlusconi collapsed under pressure from the financial markets.
Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti is to lead a coalition of centre parties going into Italy’s parliamentary election in February
Mario Monti, a former economics professor and European Union Commissioner, was chosen to impose financial rigor on the economy.
In power, he made some progress early on, including raising the retirement age and structural reforms.
But later policies were watered down and Silvio Berlusconi and his centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) party increasingly attacked Mario Monti’s economic austerity.
Mario Monti has described his 13 months in office as “difficult but fascinating”.
“The work we did… has made the country more trustworthy… more competitive and attractive to foreign investors,” he said.
However, ordinary Italians have been hard hit by the combination of tax rises and spending cuts Mario Monti has imposed to repair Italy’s public finances and it is uncertain how well he will fare in the election on 24-25 February 2013.
The left-wing Democratic Party is currently leading the opinion polls, while Silvio Berlusconi will lead the challenge from the right as head of his PDL party.
Mario Monti was optimistic that the electorate will stick with him. He told an impromptu news conference that he expected his supporters could win a “significant result” in the election.
Lithuanians have begun voting for a new parliament in a ballot seen in the wider EU as a test for austerity policies to tackle the economic crisis.
Opinion polls suggest the centre-right government will be punished for cutting pensions and public sector pay.
Under its leadership, the economy has rebounded but analysts say it is too soon for voters to feel the impact.
A centre-left government promising to raise wages and reduce taxes for the poor is expected to emerge.
Lithuania enjoyed an economic boom fuelled by cheap Scandinavian loans until the 2008 world financial crisis.
That crisis saw economic output drop by 15%, unemployment climb and thousands of young people in the Baltic nation of 3.3 million emigrate in search of work.
Under Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius’s coalition government, GDP grew by 5.8% last year – one of the fastest rates of any EU economy – and the budget deficit has been tamed.
The price was swingeing cuts to the extent that only every third street lamp in the capital Vilnius was allowed to be lit and fuel for police cars was rationed.
“They cut my pension,” a 72-year-old man selling souvenirs in the capital Vilnius told Reuters news agency.
“I have to keep working because otherwise I won’t be able to afford the rent on my apartment, or the electricity bills.”
Opinion polls suggest the Social Democrats under Algirdas Butkevicius will do best at the polls, followed by their potential coalition ally, the Labour Party.
Algirdas Butkevicius promises to raise the minimum wage, make the rich pay more tax and put back euro entry until 2015, a year later than scheduled.
By delaying euro entry he could run a bigger deficit than euro accession rules permit. Of the Baltic states which joined the EU, only Estonia has so far joined the eurozone.
Analysts say that if the centre-left win, economic factors will oblige them to stick largely to the existing austerity programme.
The parties of the left have also promised to improve the ex-Soviet state’s strained relations with Russia, still Lithuania’s biggest trade partner.
In addition to the parliamentary election, Lithuanians are voting in a non-binding referendum on building a new nuclear power station, a project which could reduce dependence on Russian energy supplies.
Just before the election, PM Andrius Kubilius announced a lawsuit against Russian gas monopoly Gazprom for 5 billion lita ($1.9 billion), alleging that it had overcharged for deliveries.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has admitted his party has lost the parliamentary election, in a live TV announcement.
Mikheil Saakashvili said the Georgian Dream bloc of his main rival, billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, had won Monday’s election.
Victory for Bidzina Ivanishvili means the first democratic transfer of power in Georgia’s post-Soviet history.
Bidzina Ivanishvili said the “only right decision” would now be for Mikheil Saakashvili to resign.
While Bidzina Ivanishvili, 56, is set to become prime minister, his rival, who has led the country since 2003, is due to remain in power until presidential elections next year.
Under agreed reforms, the parliament and prime minister will acquire greater powers than the president after that election.
With results in from 72% of polling stations, Georgian Dream led the party list vote, which accounts for 77 of the 150 seats, with 54% of the vote. The president’s United National Movement was on 41%.
The rest of the seats are made up of 73 constituencies elected by a first-past-the-post vote.
President Mikheil Saakashvili said it was clear that Georgian Dream had won a majority.
Earlier Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgia’s richest man, had already declared victory.
In his TV address, Mikheil Saakashvili said he would respect the Georgian people’s decision, and his party would become “an opposition force”.
“It’s clear from the preliminary results that the opposition has the lead and it should form the government – and I as president should help them with this.”
The US congratulated Georgians on the “historic milestone” of their parliamentary election and praised the president’s response to the result.
In a later news briefing, Bidzina Ivanishvili called on Mikheil Saakashvili to admit he would not be able to retain power, to resign and call a snap presidential election.
Mikheil Saakashvili, a pro-Western leader who champions the free market, has warned that the Georgian Dream bloc will move Georgia away from the West and back into Moscow’s sphere of influence. Russia defeated Georgian forces in a brief war in 2008.
But in his briefing Bidzina Ivanishvili said both normalization of relations with Russia and membership of NATO would be pursued.
“If you ask me <<America or Russia?>>, I say we need to have good relations with everybody,” Bidzina Ivanishvili said according to AFP news agency.
Bidzina Ivanishvili made his fortune in Russia in the early 1990s, with stakes in the metals industry, banking and later property, including hotels. Forbes business website estimates his wealth at $6.4 billion.
His success was welcomed in Moscow where Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said it would mean more “constructive forces” entering parliament.
Vyacheslav Nikonov, deputy head of the parliament’s international affairs committee in Moscow, said that in the eyes of both Dmitry Medvedev and President Vladimir Putin the Georgian president was a war criminal.
“Anything that would keep Saakashvili further away from the instruments of power is a plus for Russian-Georgian relations.”
It is a momentous day for Georgia – a day which strengthens the country’s democratic credentials. Georgia has experienced much political turmoil since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The ugly election campaign had polarized the country and there were fears that the results would be disputed.
Observers from the European security organization OSCE said that “despite a very polarizing campaign the Georgian people have freely expressed their will”.
Georgia’s Central Electoral Commission (CEC) said there had been no grave violations during the voting.
More than half of the country’s population has no proper job. Older and poorer Georgians, in particular, are struggling and some feel nostalgic about the Soviet Union.
The OSCE said the election process had “shown a healthy respect for fundamental freedoms… and we expect the final count will reflect the choice of the voters”.
However, the statement regretted “detentions and fines of mostly opposition-affiliated campaigners” during the campaign.
French exit polls suggest that Francois Hollande’s Socialists and their allies are set for a majority following the first round of legislative elections.
The Socialists appear tied with the right-wing UMP party on about 35% of the vote, but the support of Green allies gives them closer to 40%.
The outcome of the polls is expected to determine the extent and pace of reform under the newly-elected French leader.
Run-offs are to be held a week later.
French exit polls suggest that Francois Hollande's Socialists and their allies are set for a majority following the first round of legislative elections
The early indications are that turnout has been much lower than in the presidential elections in April, at about 60%.
France’s 46 million eligible voters are picking representatives for 577 seats in the National Assembly.
TNS Sofres, Ipsos and OpinonWay pollsters all agreed that the political left, including the Communist-backed Left Front, would win at least 289 seats in the 577-seat Assembly and possibly as many as 368 seats.
These are predictions rather than hard results and it is hard to predict accurately what the final tallies will be before next week’s decisive round of voting.
But with the Senate already under the control of the Socialists, it appears that Francois Hollande will have a majority in the lower house – even if only with the support of allies – which would give him unprecedented power to force through his reform programme.
Francois Hollande’s government is due to present a revised budget plan to parliament next month.
The result of the parliamentary election will determine the pace of reform and how radical it becomes.
“It’s a good result tonight… but we have to remain mobilized for the second round,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, an influential Socialist, was quoted by news agency AP as saying.
The election also saw a surge in support for Marine Le Pen’s far right National Front, which won almost 14% of votes, according to the exit polls – well above the 4% it got in the 2007 parliamentary elections.