European elections: Interesting consequences

The results of the European Parliament elections this month were rather inconsequential at the Union level. However, certain national situations appear more interesting.

In a free democracy, elections serve the purpose of enabling people to decide on their representatives for a set period of time, according to candidates’ programs and intentions. The rule of law provides that the interests of minorities are also considered and protected.

Already before the recent election, worries were being expressed that voters in European Union member countries would increasingly vote for – as it is called in a derogatory way – the “populist right.”

A democratic message

Overall electoral participation was 52 percent, a low figure but nevertheless a slight increase from 2019. Results were probably more strongly driven by national issues than EU-wide concerns. Losses were dramatic for the green parties, as well as for French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party. The situation in France resulted in big losses for the third-largest bloc in the Parliament, the liberal Renew Europe group.

In fact, on the matter of “liberalism,” Mr. Macron’s party is in no way liberal – but rather strongly etatist. The National Rally, a quite nationalist party led by Marine Le Pen, became the strongest French party, with nearly double the vote of Mr. Macron’s. As a consequence, Mr. Macron called for new national elections.

The more nationalist parties gained ground in most countries, although they are not all necessarily averse to the European Union. Unfortunately, criticism over the EU harmonization process is frequently branded as simply “anti-European,” which is not justified.

There are certainly some unpleasant people and groups among these parties. Most of these parties, however, prioritize the principle of subsidiarity – actually a fundamental principle of the union – and demand clearer, more restrictive and more assertive immigration policies. Internal security is a major and legitimate concern, especially for the many voters who do not resonate with the unconvincing, technocratic politics of the traditional parties. This democratic message of concern and protest came out very clearly. It has also been reaffirmed in many national elections.

Legitimate concerns

However, the political establishment remains blind. An unconvincing and undemocratic “firewall” against the right was immediately declared. The three traditional groups in the Strasbourg/Brussels parliament – Christian Democrats, Social Democrats and Liberals – still have a majority together, if a smaller one. Leaders of these groups have already promised to serve as a bulwark against “the right.”

It is unfortunate that the political establishment is more concerned with maintaining its cozy status and technocratic power than reading the writing on the wall. Unless the legitimate concerns of voters are addressed honestly and openly, politics in Europe will radicalize.


This comment was originally published here:

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