The far proper didn’t sweep the EU elections. Europe’s centre is holding | Natalie Nougayrède | Opinion


It seems that the widespread predictions of a far-right takeover of the European parliament had been, as Mark Twain famously mentioned about stories of his loss of life, “drastically exaggerated”. Residents throughout Europe flocked to the poll field in numbers unseen because the 1990s. The younger specifically turned out. They usually didn’t ship a rightwing populist surge.

A political shift is undoubtedly below approach and rightwing populism remains to be very a lot round. However the actual story was the proof of a brand new pluralism rising in EU politics, together with a Inexperienced and liberal surge. None of this imperils the EU’s survival; fairly the opposite. Nor will it result in a paralysis of its establishments, though coalition-building will probably be trickier than earlier than. Given the doomsday situations doing the rounds, that is excellent news.

When EU leaders meet on Tuesday to take inventory of those outcomes, they’ll mirror on how a bloc of 510 million individuals in the long run pulled itself again from the brink. The EU as an entity has been routinely depicted as on the verge of self-destruction. On the peak of the refugee disaster, and following Brexit, Cassandras had been in every single place. These elections have additionally delivered a rebuff to the likes of Donald Trump, who has described the EU as a “foe” and has actively inspired its breakup. The identical goes for Vladimir Putin, who has predicted that the bloc will finally implode because of western “decadence” (a favorite Putin slogan).

Marine Le Pen’s Nationwide Rally led the polls in France, however it ought to be remembered that her celebration additionally got here first within the 2014 European elections: the far proper has primarily cemented its place in France, not surged to new heights. It’s additionally price noting that Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance record,although it got here second on 22.4%, did maintain its floor on Sunday by coming near Macron’s private rating within the first spherical of the French presidential election. Provided that the previous seven months in France have been dominated by the chaos of the “gilets jaunes” disaster, that quantities to cheap harm limitation for Macron, not a wipe-out.

That Matteo Salvini’s League leads in Italy is in fact a supply of concern – the primary time the far proper has come out on high in an Italian election. However that final result was predictable. The extra shocking growth in Italy was the revival of the centre-left Democratic celebration, which simply outscored the League’s coalition companions, the 5 Star Motion.

In Germany, France and elsewhere, a good evening for the Greens indicated the rising precedence of environmental points for European voters. It additionally instructed an consciousness that the EU as a bloc, not the person nation-state, is the perfect degree for efficient motion to deal with the local weather disaster.

Extra seats within the European parliament will probably be handed to far-right teams and their potential allies (which have generally included the far left, as after they rejected a decision calling for the discharge of political prisoners in Russia final yr). However extra importantly these election outcomes have newly empowered centrist forces – the ALDE (liberal) and Inexperienced teams are actually potential kingmakers in Strasbourg. In the meantime the far left didn’t do effectively in any respect, specifically in Greece and France.

For the normal European powerhouses (the mainstream proper and the social democrats), this was a tough evening. Each suffered losses, reflecting the home sample in lots of nations. However even right here we ought to be cautious: in Germany the celebration of a chancellor who’s been in energy for practically 14 years nonetheless managed to guide the second-placed Greens by 8%. Provided that her dealing with of the refugee disaster was speculated to have so broken Angela Merkel, this hardly amounted to humiliation.

Europe is a posh place, a patchwork of 28 home political scenes, and we should keep away from the temptation to over-generalise. There could be a sigh of reduction that the far-right in Germany (AfD) and in Spain (Vox) did much less effectively than in different, current votes in these nations. However France is way much less reassuring, and Macron will proceed to have a tough time delivering on his EU-wide ambitions.

Equally, to talk of the loss of life of social democracy by a thousand cuts could ring true for the German SPD or the French Socialists; however the image is totally completely different within the Netherlands and Spain, the place a younger Socialist prime minister has discovered methods to lift the minimal wage and promote gender equality.

Hungary’s Viktor Orbán – who, don’t overlook, controls many of the media in his nation – can but once more declare a victory, however hasty narratives about central Europe turning into a monolithic centre of rightwing populism may have been dented by these outcomes. The pro-European opposition in Poland now believes it has a preventing likelihood within the common election due later this yr. In the meantime Slovaks and Romanians (particularly expats dwelling throughout the EU) have delivered a blow to the corrupt energy networks that run a lot of their nationwide governments.

It’s too early to say how efficiently Europe’s far proper will handle to coalesce right into a single bloc within the EU parliament. However there’s additionally extra for progressives to be optimistic about from these outcomes than anybody had anticipated: many voters have mobilised towards the darkish forces of rightwing populism. For European residents, some elementary values and achievements turned out to be price cherishing, not throwing away in a match of anger. Maybe there’s extra frequent sense and moderation than we feared in Europe’s political panorama. The centre is holding.

Natalie Nougayrède is a Guardian columnist



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