democraciaAbierta

#EuropeanElections2019: what can we expect now?

The results of the European elections this Sunday are a sign of hope in a continent that has been submerged in multiple crises over the past decade. Español

DemocraciaAbierta
30 May 2019
Fictitious European Union flag created by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas in 2002. Wikimedia Commons.

The results of the European elections this Sunday are a sign of hope in a continent that has been submerged in multiple crises over the past decade, and that is in desperate need of some good news.

They were the most important European elections since the first took place in 1979, and have acted as a front against the threat of a growing hard right, disruptive nationalisms, and issues such as Brexit that question the stability of the European Union.

The new European Parliament reflects the political fragmentation existent in its member countries, given that the conservative and social democrat parties who have dominated the parliament since its inception lost their monopoly. This has made way for forces such as the liberals, the greens, and a populist hard right to make their mark on the parliament in a meaningful way.

The crisis caused by Brexit, which has been now posponed until the 31st of October, meant that a divided UK was forced to participate in the elections much to the frustration of many citizens and to the delight of many others.

This so called 'second proxy referendum' over the exit of Britain from the EU has done little to clear up matters, and the resignation of Theresa May on voting day creates more uncertainty as to whether an orderly exit, or any kind of exit, is even possible.

The new Brexit Party of Nigel Farage, a far-right anti-EU formation came out on top with 30.8% of the votes, but the liberales and greens, clearly pro-European forces, gained a total of 31.6%, whilst the Tories and Labour suffered significant losses.

Brexit has also shaken up the narratives of the far-right in Europe, who appear to have largely abandoned their anti-EU discourse for a more reformist tone.

Brexit has also shaken up the narratives of the far-right in Europe, who appear to have largely abandoned their anti-EU discourse for a more reformist tone.

The National Assembly of Marine Le Pen in France left behind its posture regarding 'Frexit', and emerging far-right parties such as Vox in Spain have leered more towards the posture that Europe must come together to preserve its race up against floods of immigrants looking to threaten the genetic make-up of the continent.

The results of the European elections are complex but vital for the future of the political formation nonetheless, which is why we explain what we can expect in the years to come in the region.

The winners and losers of these elections

The fall of traditional parties of the centre-left and centre-right indicates that the two-party system may be coming to an end on a national and Europe-wide scale. Forces such as the liberales, the greens, and the far-right have largely occupied the space left by the struggling centre.

The ENF, the ultra-right anti-immigration formation spearheaded by Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini, gained 58 seats (7.7%), and the anti-Europe formation led by Nigel Farage, the EFDD, gained 54 (7.2%). However, the liberal formation ALDE and the Greens had much more success, gaining 105 and 69 seats respectively (23.2% altogether).

The growth of ultra-right parties in Italy, the UK and France, alongside the ultra-conservatives of Poland and Hungary, continue to present threats within an institution that has traditionally defended open and progressive values that the far-right wish to end.

There are many who wish to weaken the European project, from internal tensions and the rise of nationalisms, to the obstacles and demands of Trump, and the meddling of Putin.

There are many who wish to weaken the European project, from internal tensions and the rise of nationalisms, to the obstacles and demands of Trump, and the meddling of Putin, two political powers who have strong interests in keeping the EU down. To combat these internal and external enemies, the role of those who will take on key leadership positions in Brussels and Strasbourg will be vital.

What kind of Europe in the coming years?

Guy Verhofstadt, Belgian politician and former leader of the Liberal Alliance of the European Parliament, declared that "Europe is back, and Europe is popular" after the results of the latest elections had been revealed.

And he is right; after a decade of an economic crisis that had a profound social impact in countries such as Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland (where austerity policies were brutally enforced), and after a massive refugee crisis in 2015/16 that created tension surrounding EU migratory policies, EU citizens have decisively voted in favor of strengthening the union for the coming years.

The electoral turn-out for the European elections has always been traditionally low, and people have always had the feeling that there is little that can be done to influence what occurs in a distant Brussels with a significant democratic deficit.

However, these elections have shown record numbers of participation, with a turn-out of 50.95%, an increase of 8 points from 2014, and the highest rate in 20 years.

This level of increased electoral participation is a positive sign for the coming year and the diversity of voices in the parliament could provoke a more lively and participative debate than ever.

The Brexit effect has had the opposite effect of that previously predicted, and now nobody is contemplating following suit or that a domino effect many occur.

This level of increased electoral participation is a positive sign for the coming year and the diversity of voices in the parliament could provoke a more lively and participative debate than ever.

There continues to be significant support for populist nationalisms such as Brexit and the far-right of Salvini, or the new authoritarianisms of Poland and Hungary, where Orban won again by an absolute majority.

What occurs with Brexit will condition the destiny of the Union, however many suspect that the new 73 UK members of the European parliament, including the 29 elected by the Brexit Party, could be very well here to stay.

The weight of geopolitics and the consciousness among Europeans that their model of freedoms and the defense of human and civil rights could be in danger, has forced them to vote in favor of the Union. We will soon be able to tell who will occupy the top posts, and if they will be capable of effectively taking advance of this new pro-European political tide. Windows of opportunity are scarce these days, so let's all go for it!

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