When I started watching Jean-Claude Juncker‘s post-election speech, I didn’t have in mind that I will be repeating the 37 second video clip 4 times to make sure the future President of the European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, lives on the same continent as me or not? For Juncker, the 2014 European parliamentary elections were a walk in the park. The results of the European elections were a clear win for Juncker’s center right coalition. Forget the observers that signal a push by conservatives and eurosceptics that threatens the federalist dogma in Brussels, they are delusional!
If you add up the « pro European » parties scores across the EU, then Juncker is right. The EPP in addition to the ADLE and the Social Democrats have a clear majority in the EU parliament. But this is a typical remark of a Eurocrat, totally disconnected from anything closely related to political reality.
While Juncker is right on the surface, if you breakdwon the campaign and the results, the reality shows a completely different picture. For example, does Juncker now that at least half of the French U.M.P, the center right, thinks he has no chance of becoming the Commission’s President? Does he know that Henry Guaino, Sakrozy’s right arm, and the tenant of the Gaulliste tradition on the French right, publicly called for voting against the EPP candidate, Alain Lamassoure? Is he aware that Laurent Wauquiez, another tenant of the Gaulliste tradition, and a rising star within the French center right, called for going back to the Europe of 6 structure, backtracking on all European expansion treaties, and clearly taking an anti-federal stance?
Let’s go to the left. Is Juncker aware that the French left, ranging from communists to the United Left member parties, Melenchon for example, are fundamentally against his policies, and see him as the symbol of Troika imposed austerity on southern Europe?
No, Juncker thinks he is the people’s hero, and in apparent disconnection from the political reality of Europe, is claiming a political victory in what seams as a clear apparent debacle of pro EU establishment parties. To quote the excellet ZeroHedge, commenting on Juncker’s post election tweet:
Meanwhile, back in « Old United Europe », it seems nothing has changed:
Without knowing the final result, we know that the @EPP has come out in the lead+ that I am fully entitled to become Commission President
— Jean-Claude Juncker (@JunckerEU) May 25, 2014
Seems a good starting point for the European elections results breakdown!
European Elections Results: France and Germany
Before presenting the results of the EU’s locomotives, France and Germany, I would like to congratulate this elections biggest winners. And these are abstentionists. Voter turnout, as usual for EU elections, proved to be disparate between countries, but generally low, marking a democratic discontent with the whole way EU politics are being handled. More than half of the European electorate just doesn’t care how the EU is managed, and this a sad fact no-matter your political affiliation.
Let’s get back to dear France. What was expected happened, even though the last week on the local political scene witnessed a cheap manipulative propaganda projecting that the Front National will not come ahead of the vote, the traditional right U.M.P saving what could be saved in the last sprint before the finish line. But surprise surprise (or not), Marine Le Pen came out victorious in a historic blow to the center right and the total destruction of the French Socialist Party as a credible European alternative. The last minute talk of a weak FN as the campaign advanced was apparently all mainstream reassuring talk. Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister, described the Front National’s score as a « political earthquake ».
In Germany, one of the rare European nation states to survive the 2009 financial crisis without any particular pain, Angela Merkel’s CDU won in front of the Social Democrats, with a score slightly less than the previous elections. This score however is the final blow for Martin Schulz‘s bid to preside the next EU Commission. Noteworthy though is that German Eurosceptics of Alternative for Germany have exceeded expectations and reached a 7% score, allowing them to send representatives to the European Parliament.
The democratic deficit
Anger towards the Brussels based political establishment that led the Eurozone throughout the Financial Crisis of 2009 is high, extremely high, and the European elections results point to this fact.
Let’s take Italy for example, where Renzi’s PD is estimated to obtain approx 30 % of total votes. The fact is however, that Renzi leads Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement, a deeply populist and anti establishment civil and political movement.
In Italy, the anti-establishment Five Star movement, headed up by former comedian Beppe Grillo came in second place. The party has campaigned on taking Italy out of the Euro and giving Italians back their « monetary, economic and cultural sovereignty ».
Another example is Greece, where Alexis Tsipras’s radical left coalition managed to win the poll, but with the government coalition made up of the center right and left winning the cumulative vote. Neonazis of the Golden Globe will be sending 3 proud neo-nazi deputies to the EU parliament. Yes, I’m sorry if it’s too much accusations, but I mainly blame austerity inspired policies for that one too.
The far-left Syriza party in Greece capitalised on the country’s dire economic circumstances and high unemployment to make the call for change. Party leader Alexis Tsipras said we have a « political agenda that cannot be ignored » in the EP.
Italy’s and Greece’s examples show a fragile equilibrium in countries expected to have long-term and stable economic and social policies by their lenders. The Portuguese one confirms this observation. In Portugal, the abstention level reached 66 %, with the current governing coalition that led 3 years of austerity based policies losing to the main center left Socialists, the country’s main opposition party.
I would comfortably conclude these southern country observations by linking abstention and anti-establishment vote to austerity inspired policies. Wherever the EU and the Troika have implemented austerity inspired policies to « save the Euro » and the national economies, the result has been a political landscape so unstable that it makes those countries impossible to govern, reform, or even manage through a second financial crisis if one hits us.
We are seeing a confirmation of the increasing democratic deficit between the citizens of the EU, and the institutions and leaders that are supposed to represent their aspirations.
The UK already out
Let’s face it. Neither David Cameron nor the Lib Dems had any appetite to defend the European project on British soils. And if you add to that Nigel Farage’s charismatic personality and wild political beast nature, the battle was already lost. So it is not with a lot of surprise that UKIP performed just as expected, being projected to win the majority of British deputies to Brussels.
Farage campaigned on a strong Eurosceptic stance, leading a raging campaign against intra EU immigration, and the loss of national sovereignty to unelected insitutions. The answer of these institutions to Farage and his campaign are significant of the arrogance with which Eurocracts deal with Euroscpeticism. Not once has Nigel Farage been properly debated with by a European technocrat. Instead, he has been labeled racist, xenophobic, nationalist, and all the thought crimes mainstream media indicts you with as soon as your opinion deviates from the established truth.
How much Farage will be influent in the EU parliament heavily depends on the alliances he is willing to conduct, and a UKIP-Front National alliance would certainly be a strategic boost to anti establishment parties. For now, his influence is mostly noticed on the national level, where he is confident of winning an opt-out of the Euro referendum if David Cameron has the political courage of submitting one to the people’s vote.
The generational and geographic deficit
The EU is divided, and the divide is on two levels, geographic and generational.
When it comes to the generational divide, there is a clear difference, in political terms, between the old German retiree voter, who is voting for more public expenditure control, high interest rates, and a overvalued Euro, and the young Spanish voter, victim of strong and chronic unemployment. The Spanish voter of course is voting against German-Troika imposed austerity measures, low interest rates, and a undervalued Euro that frees up the country’s export structure. I call this the generational divide.
We can additionally see this divide on the national level. There is a clear difference in the voting preferences of the young generation, who is promised years of unemployment, high taxation, and 68 year careers if they even dare to dream about retirement, versus the old generation that is enjoying it’s retirement plans at 50’s and early 60’s and politically defending their privileged position in society by voting.
Another European divide is geographic. This divide is illustrated by the current Ukrainian crisis. European elites and the Brussels established politicians have clearly and undeniably taken a rapprochement stance with NATO and American foreign policy.
For those who love European history, remember De Gaulle warned of this exact situation? Oh Mon Général, you are missed.
The nation states that have joined the EU through the enlargement policy, who for the most are post-soviet union states, see this rapprochement with NATO as vital for their national security, their foreign policy being dictated by World War memories and current fear.
The countries of Southern Europe and Germany for example, face a public opinion strongly against any conflict with Russia, and for an inclusion of Russia in European politics in a more efficient manner. The majority of southern europeans are against a rapprochement with NATO, against an alignment with American Foreign policy objectives, and for a dialogue with Russia. The recent attempts to impose sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine situation, and the failure to enact even the legal minimum sanctions that represent an offensive stance, are proof that Europe is anything but united when it comes to Foreign policy matters.
How can a Federal union survive in such divisive and unclear waters, I do not know. Surely some enlightened technocrat in Brussels has an answer.
Conclusion: Opposition from within
As the conservative Pat Buchanan puts it
What are the identifying marks of these populist parties that have sprouted up now in almost every European country?
There is first the rejection of universalism and transnationalism, and a reversion to patriotism and its songs, symbols, holidays, history, myths and legends.
To peoples such as these, the preservation of the separate and unique ethnic and cultural identity of the nation supersedes all claims of supranational organizations, be it the EU or U.N.
This sentiment is reflected not only in fierce resistance to further integration within the EU, but in visceral hostility to further immigration from the Third World, Islamic world or Eastern Europe.
These people want to remain who and what they are.
Even the Swiss last winter voted for an initiative of the People’s Party calling for reintroduction of quotas for immigrants from the EU.
A second telltale sign of the new populism is traditionalism and cultural conservatism, reverence for the religious and cultural history and heritage of the nation and its indigenous people.
That victory in the recent Eurovision contest of Conchita, the bearded transvestite drag queen who performed in a gown, though celebrated by much of the European press, sent a message to millions of traditionalists that this is no longer their culture.
Another aspect of the rising populist right, as the New York Times notes, is a grudging admiration for Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Why? Putin not only publicly rejects the moral relativism of the West, under his guidance Russian social legislation is being consciously rooted in traditional Christian concepts of right and wrong.
Putin is the anti-Obama, moving to occupy the cultural-moral vacuum left by America. As we celebrate multiculturalism, LGBT rights, and abortion on demand, Putin repudiates Hollywood values.
This analysis of European conservatives and anti-establishment political parties by Pat Buchanan is a precise description of the reality I have been observing since the 2009 crisis. There is an evident disconnection between mainstream media, the political elite, and the peoples of Europe, you know those human elements that don’t live in cities, aren’t swaggy and culturally « included », the young unemployed, the local tradesman watching an un-elected Commissioner negotiate his production standards with the American government in complete secrecy, the traditional families seeing the LGBT lobby imposing social norms without the slightest consideration to their existing social structures, an undemocratic response in 2009 to the financial crisis, that consisted of saving a currency at the expense of a whole generation of young southern Europeans lost forever.
Acknowledging these factual elements would have been helpful for the pro-EU politicians, bringing them closer to the people, making their message audible, and opening new ways for future EU integration.
With the arrogance and assumed elitism on display since the beginning of the campaign, I’m not that hopeful that solving the democratic divide is even considered as an objective by the European establishment. Isn’t it Herman Van Rompuy that declared that the EU’s enlargement had no backup from European citizens, but that it had to be pursued anyways?
You reap what you sow, Mr Van Rompuy. Now the opposition to the European integration has started from within, and the European elections results are the last warning signal given by those forgotten populations the EU has constantly forgotten and denied democratic representation. Now the European elections results are a painful reminder not to snob the people.
The result will not be a breakdown of the EU in the short-term, but a breaking up of the quasi religious dogma that ruled on Brussels politics.
Links and noteworthy details
Emotional: Jean-Luc Mélechon, leader of the French Front de Gauche, in tears after being informed of Le Pen’s score