Elections for the European Parliament are unique, yet telling. Turnout is generally low, usually below 50 percent, an indication that it is not taken very seriously. Brussels is not the seat of a super state, as sovereignty still lies in the hands of national governments. That’s why in European Parliamentary elections voters are more relaxed. The EU Parliament has little power and does not affect the sovereignty and decision-making of its member states. All such decisions are made nationally.
This is what makes it telling. The EU elections are often a realistic look into the electoral views of individual member states. Voters are more apt to vote how they actually feel in these elections because it doesn’t really upset their own government nor elections and is therefore an opportunity to send a message in a safe manner. It is from last week’s vote we find trends in voter behavior.
First and foremost, we see the idea that voters want change, but they are divided over the direction. The former leaders—such as the right-wing European People’s Party (EPP/178 seats, minus 38) and the Socialists & Democrats (S&D/147 seats, minus 38)—lost votes. Winners are the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and Emmanuel Macron’s “En Marche”(101 seats, plus 32), the Greens/European Free Alliance (70 seats, plus 20) and the right-wing populist “Salvini’s European Alliance of People and Nations” (71 seats/plus 35). National developments more so than European issues have driven these gains and losses. The success of the Euro-Greens is mainly a result of huge gains for the Green party in Germany but demonstrates voter concern for t environmental issues. Liberals gained mainly through the inclusion of Macron’s movement, “La Republique En Marche,” and right-wing populists through the Italian “Lega Nord” and its popular leader, Matteo Salvini. The French right-wing populist, Marine Le Pen, actually lost votes.
No party holds a majority. The new European Parliament will be dominated by new and changing coalitions, which will make old-style back-door deals more difficult, and that is a good sign. This is a great example for US voters, especially those disgusted by such political deal-making. The President of the European Commission will be chosen by new players with new seats at the table. The right-wing populists and the socialist democrats have shown themselves to be neither unbeatable, nor a fading remnant. Both sides maintain a base, but the middle is shifting.
What we see in these national parties competing for EU seats is a trend in the national politics of each state, a trend that the old parties are fading—as seen especially in the UK. The traditional major parties have begun to take back seats to new parties with new ideas and new ways of resolving issues. The one resounding voice through it all is discontent with how things are, and where they are going.
In the European Parliamentary election, voters have given a clear and yet differentiated verdict to mainstream parties that they want more transparency and more of a say. Political trends, as with most things, make Europe first priority, then America. Therefore, we can expect the reverse here—in fact, we already can see it.
In the United States it is even more pressing, as two parties are working together to control everything without competition. No competition means no new ideas. That trend, as we have just seen is changing. Americans should be world leaders in having their own say and not that of political bosses, agenda-laden large media, social media falsehoods and fear-mongering. Question is, will we, While we still can?