Gains for left as Dutch break results embargo

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The Netherlands last night plunged the Euro-elections into a legal controversy as it released unofficial results of its vote before most of the 24 other EU nations had gone to the polls.

The Netherlands last night plunged the Euro-elections into a legal controversy as it released unofficial results of its vote before most of the 24 other EU nations had gone to the polls.

The move brought a threat of legal action from the European Commission which said that voting in other nations might be influenced by the result. Early results based on 94 per cent of votes cast ­ votes in the capital Amsterdam remain to be counted ­ showed strong gains for leftist opposition parties.

The Dutch say that, under their reading of European electoral law, they have the right to release preliminary data as soon as it is available, providing the final, official figures are not made public.

The European Commission is likely to take the matter for the European Court of Justice. A spokesman for the European Commission said that it would monitor the situation, but that legal action would not be started before Monday.

The UK will keep its results secret until the world's largest transnational election is finished on Sunday night.

The new Transparent Europe party of Paul van Buitenen won two of the 27 Dutch seats in the European legislature. Mr Van Buitenen is known as the whistleblower whose claims of mismanagement in Brussels in 1998 led to the resignation of the entire European Commission.

The ruling Christian Democratic Appeal party of the Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, ended with an equal number of seats as the leading opposition Social Democrats, each with seven.

The authoritative Dutch figures will be released on 15 July.

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