A total of 28 countries across the European Union went to the polls on Sunday May 26th.
Both strong pro-Europe and nationalist parties made gains while the traditional center-left and center right parties saw their numbers drop again.
What does it mean?
For starters, for the first time the two centrist parties, the Conservative party and the Social Democrats, need another party to form a governing coalition in the EU Parliament.
The traditional parties did not seem to grasp how important the topic of fighting climate change was, especially to younger voters. The Greens Party both in the EU Parliament and in Germany, profited from that.
Reflecting about those at the other end of the political spectrum, Max Hofmann DW Brussels Bureau Chief stated,
“Right now, the right-wing populists as they are called, or the nationalists, don’t really have the numbers to inflict serious damage on the European Parliament or to obstruct businesses as usual.”
But if the trend continues, he warned, that outcome will be inevitable.
Italy and the Bloc
A significant victory went to Matteo Salvini’s far right Italian League (Lega) party.
Salvini commented to the press,
“Not only is the League the top party in Italy, but Marine Le Pen’s is the top party in France, and in the UK Nigel Farage’s party is first … it’s the sign of a Europe that is changing.”
The right-wing populist bloc that appears to be forming includes Italy’s Matteo Salvini and his party, France’s Marine Le Pen and her party, and Germany’s AFD.
Not everyone is concerned though because the ultra-right was not able to unite in the past. Hungary’s Prime Minister Victor Orban, for example, disagreed with other populists on a number of issues and is part of another voting group.
Hofmann took a more cautious view.
If they were to be joined by Hungary’s and Poland’s right-wing leading parties, he commented, they would be significantly more powerful.
And we can’t rule out Austria becoming a part, in spite of what happened to its Chancellor the day after the EU elections.
They still won’t powerful enough to take over the EU Parliament, but Hofmann said his concern was that history shows the effect on the establishment parties could still be a serious blow for democracy.
The voter backlash against established parties in the UK was devastating.
Ironically, the weeks old anti-EU Brexit Party of Nigel Farage ended up being the biggest winner.
Steve Baker UK Conservative MP told the media,
“The absolute stand-out here is if this had been a general election we wouldn’t have won any seats, as Conservatives, and the right-wing Brexit Party would be governing the country.”
The Head of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, Josef Janning, commented that,
“In the youngest age group, the Greens”, in Germany “have more votes than the CDU and SPD combined, and that is quite a remarkable change.”
Gauging the EU election results, the right-wing AFD Party now looks at the Greens, on the left, as its main competitor.
As the world gets scarier, people are increasingly deserting the traditional parties for those more to the right and left.
Perhaps, quite a few younger European voters do not feel the need to vote as their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents did; in part, because they didn’t actually experience the horrors of World War II, or the devastation it caused, nor the political extremes that preceded it.
Many of those who voted for the Greens fear that humanity is headed for extinction due to Global Warming. To them, established politicians aren’t acting on the issue fast enough.
On the other hand, Hofmann says populist parties — allegedly coached by former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon — are making statements like we might have Global Warming; but it’s not man-made. And, even if it is; we can’t do anything about it. Or, they propose such things as building higher walls to keep out the oceans.
It’s worth repeating, and the major news outlets are now saying — the Europe of yesterday and today won’t be the Europe of tomorrow. But when it comes to the shifting political climate, Europe is, by no means, alone.
If the polarization of people worldwide and other societal flaws continue on unchecked; conditions on planet earth are going to get so bad, only God can save us.
Photo Credits: EU 2019 Elections courtesy of EU; Salvini by Confartigianato Imprese, License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; Farage by Gage Skidmore License: CC BY-SA 2.0; French Voting courtesy of EU.