The breakthrough by Germany’s anti-euro party, the far right push in Austria, the pressure exerted by Nigel Farage’s Europhobes on the British Conservative party, and the anti-austerity drubbing sustained by the ruling party in Portuguese local elections: all of these amount to a preamble for May 2014 European elections in which hostility to Brussels’ orthodoxy will likely have a major impact.
In addition to the traditional anti-immigration and anti-Brussels votes, which have fed Euroscepticism in previous elections, anti-Merkel and anti-troika groups, which have thrived amid the euro crisis and repeated austerity programmes, stand to make a strong showing. Different political strands are often intertwined on these “protest” fronts. The eurosceptics are worried about growing immigration, while austerity has encouraged rejection of Europe ruled by liberal economics.
In a context where ruling parties are more concerned by national votes than by low-turnout European ballots, the protest parties are counting on the elections on May 22 and 25, 2014, to establish their influence. What is more, the surge in their support will come at time when the European parliament has won greater powers, notably with regard to its choice of the president of the future Commission.
Brussels’ battle of wills
The leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage, has made European elections a priority in his bid to impose his views on the United Kingdom, which will open a new chapter in the battle of wills with Brussels. They are also a key objective for the True Finns and France’s Front national (FN), as they are for Beppe Grillo in Italy, and SYRIZA, Greece’s main opposition party. All of these groups are hoping to be the focus of a protest vote, which is more pronounced in EU polls. “European elections have traditionally favoured marginal parties,” explains political scientist Dominique Reynié.
“They are characterised by proportional representation and a high level of abstention, especially among moderate voters.”
The ingredients of the protest cocktail are well known: immigration, bureaucracy and austerity. And at times they can form a highly volatile mix. The controversy in France over the Roma has shown that immigration – to Europe and also within the EU – will figure large in the campaigns. The question of migration is the stock and trade of the far right in countries as far apart as Denmark and Greece, as well as in the Netherlands, Austria and France.
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