In the 2019 E.U. parliamentary elections, the center was the big loser, shedding votes to the globalist left, the E.U.-skeptic populist right, and the radical greens. Voter turnout was the big winner with the highest participation in 20 years. Evidently, many Europeans saw this election as a fight for the soul of Europe.
Most notably, three years after the Brits voted to leave the E.U., Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party won nearly a third of the votes in the U.K.
For the ruling Conservative Party, the election was a near extinction-level event, with only 8.7%. The result can be interpreted only as a full condemnation of the weak leadership of Prime Minister Theresa May in securing an acceptable Brexit deal.
In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally beat President Emmanuel Macron’s alliance by a razor-thin margin and became the largest party. Being the first election since Macron came to power, it is by many regarded as a referendum on his presidency. By that standard, he was humiliated.
The result reflects deep societal problems and a lack of transparency. The media have not reported widely on the Yellow Vest riots that have plagued France for six months.
Italy’s Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini was, however, perhaps the most notable election winner. His League party won a third of the votes and, with its government partner Five Star Movement, gained a significant majority.
Salvini has emerged as a leader for Europe’s right-wing populist parties. His E.U. parliament coalition European Alliance of People and Nations (EAPN) made significant gains and is now the fourth largest political bloc in Europe. After the elections, Salvini declared that populists and nationalists now control 20% of the seats in parliament.
Hungary and Poland
The news got worse for the E.U. with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s party Fidesz winning a majority in Hungary. Throw into the mix Poland’s conservative Law and Justice Party reaffirming its power with 43.1% of the votes, thereby adding to the growing body of E.U.-skeptics in Europe.
However, it was not only the populist right that made headway. The E.U.-friendly globalist liberal democrat parties also snatched voters from the mainstream conservative and social democratic parties. Their gains matched that of the populist right, and the result so far is a tie, except with a far more polarized parliament. European unity is now giving way to deep-seated ideological rifts, and the fronts are becoming more transparent for all to see.
The green parties made gains and thereby contributed to cannibalizing the center. We see the emergence of a new Europe, with more conflicts and diametrically opposed goals. The old E.U. was solidly united around the idea of European integration and centralization, but that is no longer the case. The revolt that started as murmuring and complaining among ordinary people now has finally emerged on the political stage as loud dissenting voices.
It is too early to tell what the political consequences will be, but one thing is sure: Politics is heating up in the E.U.
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