Tuesday, 27 May 2014

A day of European discordance-in some nations for better, in many nations for worse

Ladies and gentlemen, with many European nations having finally declared European elections results in addition to ours, much is already clear.

The rise of the far-right, whether outright neo-Nazi (Golden Dawn in Greece, Front National in France), or racist populist (Danish People's Party, True Finns), has been notorious across Europe, and in a time of Europe-wide austerity inflicted by the neoliberal triad of ALDE, EPP and S&D (with ECR adding salt to the wounds they are causing sometimes) often in conjunction with the unaccountable European Central Bank and unelected European Commission, this is worrying. Extreme-right parties in Europe offer no real solutions to austerity-they just blame past scapegoats like immigrants and ethnic minorities for national problems when it should be clear that neoliberal capitalism is to blame for Europe's current malaise. Meanwhile, the left within Europe has suffered in many nations- France, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands are four nations where MEPs from the anti-TTIP, progressive, anti-neoliberal European Left and Greens/European Free Alliance groups notably have either been lost or have otherwise failed to make progress against neoliberalism when they should have, and where cynicism and racism has taken root.

To put this into perspective:

Denmark's Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People's Party) topped the poll in Denmark despite being as nasty and racist as UKIP. They got 4 MEPs; meanwhile, the Danish Greens' equivalent, the Socialist Folkeparti (Socialist People's Party) lost 1 of its 2 seats and the People's Movement against the EU, supported by the Red-Green Alliance, failed to gain an extra seat despite the surge of Red-Green Alliance support that happened in Danish local elections last year.
Not only did France's Green Party, Europe Ecologie-Les Verts (EELV) lose 8 MEPs, France's Front de Gauche, when I was expecting them to gain MEPs, actually lost 1 of their 5. Meanwhile, Front National topped the French poll with 24 MEPs-even though it is so extreme and so awful even UKIP will not support it. (If you have read international news recently, you will know just how bad FN is.)
In Belgium, the Francophone Greens (Ecolo) lost one seat, and despite their efforts and previous good polling the hard left Workers' Party (PvdA+/PTB) failed to gain a European seat when I hoped they would, even in Wallonia. The New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) have made gains against previous establishment parties of Belgium, but as they are not anti-neoliberal and not green this does not matter. The far-right Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest, or VB) are also still in the European Parliament after today's results, worse luck!
In the Netherlands, the far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) did not lose any European seats, despite the notorious anti-Moroccan comments its leader, Geert Wilders, made only two months ago, which for at least a while damaged his party's standing amongst Dutch voters. GroenLinks (GL), the Dutch Greens, lost a seat (probably to animal rights party PvdD aka Party for the Animals), whilst the Dutch Socialists did not gain a seat when I hoped they would gain one or two with the Dutch Labour Party being rather unpopular at the moment.

There have also been left-wing losses in the Czech Republic (Communists of Bohemia and Moravia down from 4 seats to 3; rise of Czech Pirate Party, who only narrowly missed out on winning a seat with 4.8% of the vote, may be to blame), Latvia (Latvian Socialist Party lost their only European seat), and Croatia (the Croatian Labourists lost the seat they won just last year, although in consolation Sustainable Development of Croatia, a Croatian green party, won a seat). Meanwhile in Germany, the removal of the fixed election threshold in a nation electing 96 MEPs has led to some interesting new parties entering the European Parliament for the first time: the German Pirate Party, the Family Party, the Human Environment Animal Welfare Party (similar to the Dutch animal rights party which I mentioned earlier) the Ecological Democratic Party (more conservative version of the German Greens), and Die PARTEI, a joke party whose newly elected MEP said that he would 'retire after a month and let the next person on the list have a turn for a month, and so on, to get the most money out of the European Parliament'.

Also, in Sweden, the first explicitly feminist MEP has been elected, and Sweden's Green Party has gained an MEP as well-sadly, the far-right Sweden Democrats gained 2 MEPs and the Swedish Pirate Party have lost both their MEPs.

At least there has been good news for the left in Spain, Ireland, Italy and Greece. In Spain, 5 MEPs from United Left (IU) were elected, as were 5 MEPs from various Green/EFA parties including Equo and Initiative for Catalonia Greens (ICV). And, even though that party was only founded three months ago, Podemos, a left-wing protest party, gained 5 MEPs, making that 15 left-wing MEPs elected in Spain! Conversely, the governing People's Party (PP) were down to 16 seats from 24, and the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) were down from 14 seats to 22. Their performance as opposition was lamentable enough that their leader, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, has announced he will resign soon, in the same way the leader of Ireland's Labour Party Eamon Gilmore will now resign. 

Italy elected 17 MEPs from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement of Beppe Grillo, although this was not as many as Signor Grillo hoped. At least the left-wing Tsipras List aka the Other Europe has elected 3 MEPs in Italy, whilst Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia lost 16 of its 29 MEPs and finished third. 

Ireland has also been a big rejector of neoliberalism, in both European and local elections (more on Irish local elections later) this year. All three STV constituencies in Ireland elected an MEP from Sinn Fein, and ex-Labour MEP Nessa Childers was also re-elected in Dublin, with the last seat being won by Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes. If only People Before Profit's Brid Smith had supported the Socialists' Paul Murphy and not split each others' vote, then Dublin would be entirely represented by left-wing MEPs (the combined 1st preference votes of PBP and the Socialists was 15.3%, up from the 12.4% Joe Higgins received in 2009 as a Socialist candidate). Labour was also soundly and deservedly punished in Ireland, as it elected no MEPs at all.

The rise of the left in Greece has been the biggest by far, though. SYRIZA under Alexis Tsipras managed to top the poll and return 6 MEPs, with governing, neoliberal New Democracy meanwhile only returning 5 MEPs, and PASOK being reduced to just 2 MEPs. The Greek Communists also retained their two MEPs.

It appears in many European nations, however, that so many protest voters have gone the wrong way, when they could have gone leftwards and rejected neoliberalism, racism and fascism all in one go. Why oh why did this not happen? Oh, how this has been a time when every nation has needed its answer to Alexis Tsipras, a relatively young, principled socialist who can see the EU and neoliberalism for what it really is, and inspire people to fight back.







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