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'Crisis of Confidence' as Far Right and Euroskeptic Parties Win Big in Europe

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Poll workers recount votes for the European elections in Dresden, Germany on Monday.Matthias Hiekel / AP

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Europe awoke to what some called a political earthquake on Monday, after far-right, anti-immigration and Euroskeptic parties gained significant ground in elections for the European Parliament.

Britain and France were the most notable examples of where voters shunned mainstream political groups and instead opted for parties that want to withdraw from the European Union all together.

Image: UK Independence Party  (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage reacts on stage after announcement of the results of the European Parliament election for the south east region, in Southampton
UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage reacts on stage after announcement of the results of the European Parliament election for the south east region, in Southampton, southern England on Sunday.LUKE MACGREGOR / Reuters

French President Francois Hollande called an emergency meeting for Monday in response to the poll, which saw the anti-immigration National Front party win the most votes.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the results "remarkable and regrettable," according to the Reuters news agency, while French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called the outcome "a shock, an earthquake."

"We are in a crisis of confidence...Europe has disappointed - that's a fact," he said.

The European Parliament acts in a similar way to Congress, but for the European Union. The elections across its 28 member states have been underway since last week, and at 500 million voters comprises the biggest electorate on the planet behind India.

Although the center-left and center-right groups held onto more than 70 percent of the European Parliament's 751 seats, the result is expected to stunt the body's ability to agree on major issues and could potentially stymie agreements with other countries such as the United States.

"This result will make the wheels of the European Parliament grind even more slowly," said Catherine Fieschi, director of the U.K.-based political research group Counterpoint.

Fieschi told NBC News that Euroskeptics on the right have the potential to be a disruptive influence on policy making, and Euroskeptics on the left would oppose initiatives, such as the planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a free trade agreement with the U.S, for more ideological reasons.

"Right across Europe people are fed up with the way politics is being done - they think it' unaccountable and opaque," said Fieschi. "The voters have sent a message about the way political parties operate."

Another factor in the result was the turnout - just over 40 percent of people voted across the continent.

Parties like the National Front and Britain's United Kingdom Independence Party were able to mobilize their support in a way the mainstream parties could not.

In Britain, the two largest parties, the Conservatives and Labour, were beaten to second and third place by the United Kingdom Independence Party - more commonly known as UKIP - which has caused recent tremors in the country's political landscape with its fervently anti-EU message.

UKIP's leader Nigel Farage called the election "just about the most extraordinary result that has been seen in British politics for 100 years," after his party won 27.5 percent of the vote and with it 23 European lawmakers.

Elsewhere, the anti-Islamic and Euroskeptic Dutch Freedom Party came in joint second in Holland. In Greece, the left-wing but also Euroskeptic Syriza party won most of the votes but failed to gain enough ground to dislodge the country's mainstream coalition.

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