European Elections Are About More Than the Far Right

Flags of European Union member states in Brussels, November 16, 2015
Flags of European Union member states in Brussels, November 16, 2015 (European Parliament)

European elections kick off in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom on Thursday with most of the other 26 member states voting on Sunday.

The temptation is to force a single narrative on the elections. American and British media in particular are obsessed with the performance of the Euroskeptic right. But it is only part of the story.

The elections span a continent of 500 million people. Turnout in European elections is usually low, but those who do vote tend to do so on the basis of national, not European, issues. Hence the elections are less a referendum on the EU than a test for incumbent leaders and governments.

To pro-versus-anti-EU narrative also simplifies reality. Read more

European Far Right Fails to Unite

Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy's Northern League, gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, March 15, 2017
Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s Northern League, gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, March 15, 2017 (European Parliament)

Only three other parties turned up in Milan on Monday, where Italy’s Matteo Salvini had announced the launch of a broad Euroskeptic campaign for the European elections in May.

The attendants were the nationalist parties of Denmark and Finland as well as the Alternative for Germany.

Their counterparts from Austria, France, Hungary, Poland and the Netherlands did not show up. Read more

Far Right Fills Gaps Left by Merkel and Rutte

German chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands in Kleve, near the Dutch-German border, May 23, 2013
German chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands in Kleve, near the Dutch-German border, May 23, 2013 (Bundesregierung)

Mark Rutte has suffered the same fate as his closest ally in Europe, Angela Merkel. Both center-right leaders moved to the middle in a bid for centrist voters only to leave a gap on the right that the far right has filled.

In midterm elections on Wednesday, the Dutch Freedom Party and Forum for Democracy won a combined 21 percent of the votes, their best result to date.

In Germany, support for the Alternative is down a few points in the polls but still at 11-14 percent. Merkel’s Christian Democrats fell from 41.5 to 33 percent between the 2013 and 2017 elections. Read more

Rutte Loses Senate Majority, Gains for Dutch Far Right

Dutch government buildings in The Hague
Dutch government buildings in The Hague (Shutterstock/Michael Regeer)
  • Dutch voters elected provincial deputies on Wednesday, who will elect a new Senate in May.
  • The four parties in Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s ruling coalition are projected to lose their majority in the upper chamber.
  • Far-right partied posted their best result to date, taking 21 percent of the votes. Read more

Macron Doesn’t Need to Appease the Far Right

French president Emmanuel Macron chats with a guard at the Elysée Palace in Paris, December 19, 2017
French president Emmanuel Macron chats with a guard at the Elysée Palace in Paris, December 19, 2017 (Elysée/Ghislain Mariette)

The worst argument against French president Emmanuel Macron’s latest EU reform push — made, among others, by the Russian-born Leonid Bershidsky, who writes for Bloomberg View from Germany, and the Dutch political commentator Peter van Nuijsenburg — is that it only provides ammunition for rival parties opposed to more European integration.

There are fair criticism to be made. Bershidsky also argues that Macron’s call for a European “renaissance” largely consists of adding more EU agencies and that what the bloc really needs is a shared Franco-German vision.

But the idea that less ambitious proposals, or no proposals at all, would appease the Euroskeptics is wrong. Read more

The Euroskeptic Contradiction

A man walks in front of European country flags
A man walks in front of European country flags (European Parliament/Michael Moscholios)

Euroskeptics complain that the European Union is not democratic enough. But more democracy in the EU would mean taking power away from the member states, which is not what they want either.

It’s a contradiction at the heart of the Euroskeptic argument that allows them to damn the EU if it does and damn the EU if it doesn’t. Read more

What the European Election Polls Reveal

The European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France, March 8, 2016
The European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France, March 8, 2016 (European Parliament)

Expect to read this headline a lot between now and the European elections in May: “Euroskeptics to take fifth of European Parliament seats.”

It sounds scary, but it’s really not much of a change and what’s happening on the pro-European side is more interesting. Read more