News in Europe

News in Europe: Election Fallout Edition

Citizens of Europe, I despair of you. Well, some of you. The results of the elections for the European Parliament have not been wholly surprising, but the extent of anti-EU feeling across the continent is disheartening. Let’s have a look.

In France, the right-wing Front National got 25% of the vote, at a national turnout of 43% (which is higher than in most countries). Front National, led by Marie Le Pen, are about as racist and anti-Semitic as you can get in a political party without risking a ban, so there’s really nothing I could say to make this result in any way more palatable. For shame.

In Germany, the governing Christian Democrats won with 30% of the vote. There weren’t going to be any big surprises in a country that is pro-European to the core and would probably run the EU on its own, just to somehow make up for two World Wars. 7% of the vote, however, went to the newly established AfD, which is against the EU (as well as renewable energies and has a branch that openly opposes abortions and same-sex marriage). So there is that tendency, too.

Most analysts (especially in Germany) were quick to point out that the EU elections are mostly seen as a sort of opinion poll and a chance to express criticism for traditional politics and parties. General elections will likely see a much smaller percentage of votes for extremist or protest parties, so we should not panic. This is the kind of view all those established government parties that were delegated to second or third place are taking, after mulling the results over for a few days. In the end, nothing much will change for them, but those of us who would like to think that most people around us are not racist, it’s a scary time.

In the UK, Ukip had their expected victory, winning the election with 27.5%. They now have 23 MEPs, who will likely never show up in the European Parliament unless there’s money in it.

In Hungary, right-wing party Jobbik got 14.7%, making no big gains, while the governing party Fidesz won with a share of more than 50% of the votes.

Right-wing parties in Finland, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands have also secured scarily big numbers of votes. The only good thing in all this is that while racist and anti-EU, they mostly can’t stand each other and will (hopefully) not agree on forming some sort of coalition within the European Parliament. Their influence in the EU itself might be negligible, but that’s not much comfort for those of us wondering how many of the people we see during the school run voted to get us thrown out of the country. Once again, explaining tendencies away is not the answer.

Other noteworthy facts include a 13% turnout in Slovakia (among a generally very low turnout in Eastern Europe), the 26.6% victory of the far-left in Greece, and confusing voting and registration rights in the UK leaving EU citizens unable to vote. But we have mainly learned one thing: the EU is not very popular among its citizens. Most of those citizens don’t even want to see themselves as such. It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on the EU in the way it organizes and presents itself. Maybe the gap between the European spirit and a parliament that very few people care about has finally become too wide to bridge. Who knows. All I know is that I hate what a lot of people have shown themselves to be last weekend.

But wait! There was another election! In Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko has won the presidential election. In Donetsk, the election was boycotted, and fights between government forces and separatists have claimed up to 40 lives over the last four days. The Ukrainian government claims to control the region, but this seems far from over.

Well, this was depressing. Let’s cling on to hope, and this German song for the Football World Cup. (It’s a sign of a really bad week when this is the best I can come up with!)

See you next week!


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