On May 26, Europe had its elections for the European Parliament, which will have massive implications on issues such as climate and nationalism. Here is what you need to know, in 60 seconds:
Why should I care about this election?
The results will have a large impact on how the whole world deals with the climate crisis, inequality (via global trade agreements), human rights (ditto), refugees and other issues that affect everyone.
Just give me the take-home message in ONE SENTENCE.
The mainstream center-left and center-right parties lost suffered unprecedented losses, hemorrhaging voters to smaller parties ranging from far-left to extreme-right-nationalist. Within Germany, the Greens got the second-most votes.
Why are people making such a big deal out of this election? What *isn’t* a crisis nowadays?
For the first time since the creation of the European Union the combined seats of the two major parties – center-left and center-right – don’t add up to more than 50%, which until now had always been the case and allowed them to win every vote in parliament because they had set a joint agenda (which is what a coalition is – it just means, two or more parties whose combined votes add up to more than 50% come up with a governing plan. Virtually all parliaments in all countries have to do this, because no single party is ever popular enough to get more than 50% of the seats). Now for the first time ever in the European Parliament, these mainstream centrist parties have to choice but to form coalitions with smaller parties – either farther left or farther right – in order to add up to more than 50% This has always been common within individual countries.
The center-left went from 25% of seats in 2014 to 20% yesterday, and center-right down from 29% in 2014 to 23%. So what used to be a 53% majority coalition now only would have 43%.
Is it true that Germany has neo-Nazis but also a lot of Greens? Does the rest of Europe have that too?
Yes for Germany; more or less similar elsewhere. I can tell you about Germany because I know it the best. The Greens in Germany are an established, respected party that is taken seriously by the other parties. It has 9% of the seats in the German parliament and got 20% of the German vote yesterday for the EU parliament. But for our American mind-set you need to add that to the 10% of the German parliament held by the far-far-left party called “The Left”, to get a total of 19% for parties in Germany’s parliament that would be on the far left in the U.S.. In current polls, the Greens and Left are doing even better than that.
The party which is neo-Nazi in all but name has 13% of seats but the thing to remember is that it was only first founded in 2014. Before that, there had been no hard-right party in major political office since WWII, only fringe skinhead-type neo-Nazis who murdered people. The new one is appealing to the kind of people who are extremely OCD about their allotment gardens.
Compared to the EU as whole, Germany had somewhat more support in this election for the center-right (Merkel’s party), and less for center-left, far-right, and pro-business-liberal – and a huge amount more for the Greens.
So the Greens and Left can cancel out the nationalists?
Germany’s becoming like the U.S., with the deranged vicious racists concentrated in certain states. In Germany, they’re in the former-East-Germany (former communist) states, where the neo-Nazis got from 18% to 25% on Sunday. In the former-West-German states they got from 7 to 10%.
What is the European Parliament anyway?
It’s a parliament with 751 seats for the whole European Union which meets in alternating weeks or months (I can’t keep track) in Brussels and Strasbourg. for no reason other than both cities thought they should be the location for parliament
It’s as if the US Congress had two capitol buildings, one in Washington D.C. and the other, say, in Chicago, and they alternated meeting in the two places every month just because they didn’t make one of them the capital and offend the other one, and every member of Congress had to have a home and office and staff in both places. There is no practical reason for it and no one has ever tried to claim there was. It’s purely because France bullied the entire continent into it. And you wonder why there’s Brexit.
On May 26 2019, all of Europe had elections where each country chooses representatives to the European Parliament, proportional to its population. These are separate people from the representatives in each country’s normal national parliament. The EU has a lot of power over things with international implications, so for example a lot of the environmental and consumer and worker protections you hear about are decided at the EU level.
Is it good or bad that the major centrist parties are shrinking and the smaller parties are growing?
It will be only be good if the centrist parties change their ways to do something about climate and improve the social structures they weakened in order to help rich people get richer, such as education, pensions, public transport and pretty much every aspect of everything in rural areas.
There are three smaller parties that gained from the majors’ losses:
1) Greens (9% of seats)
2) extreme-right anti-EU racist-nationalists (11%)
3) Neoliberal party that is aggressively pro-corporate but with liberal social values for a few things like LGBT rights (14%).
Those figures represent huge increases over 2014, ranging from 34% for the Greens to 55% for the neoliberals.
All of this is even more dramatic within Germany:
All of the gains and losses were far more dramatic in how Germans voted for their EU parliament representatives, than for the average of all the EU countries: in Germany, the Greens doubled their support, from 10% to 20%, to become the second most popular party. The center-left lost 2/5ths of its voters as compared to 2014, and the center-right (Merkel’s party) lost 1/5th.
Young people are massively to the left of the rest of the population: Greens got 34%, center-right 13% and center-left 9% (both about half the national figure) among under-25s. Remember, those last two have been the overwhelming bedrock foundation for over a century. Even if you define ‘young’ as under-45s the figures are similar, just a little less Green-heavy. The Greens also got 36% among first-time voters.
What else is fun and interesting about this election?
Elections in Europe are on weekends.
The results are final within an hour or two of the polls closing. Maybe not 100% legally officially final but they somehow have pretty much have everything counted by then even though the voting machines use paper.
In Italy the polls are open until 11:00 pm.
What else is nightmarish and dystopian about this election?
Just FYI here is a list of some of the bodies that make up the European Union. These are all completely different things:
Council of Europe
Council of the European Union
European Union Customs Union