Monday, May 26, 2014

Established Parties Rocked by Anti-Europe Vote

At the New York Times:

Official results released overnight showed that populist parties strongly opposed to the European Union also trounced establishment forces in Denmark and Greece and did well in Austria and Sweden. The results, a stark challenge to champions of greater European integration, left mainstream political leaders stunned.

The radical left-wing Syriza coalition in Greece beat the party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, while Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi outfit that the Greek authorities have tried in vain to outlaw, also picked up seats, bringing Holocaust-deniers and belligerent xenophobes into the European Parliament.

With the political landscape redrawn across Europe, some politicians, notably Nick Clegg, the British deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, the junior coalition partner, faced calls from their own party members to quit. The Liberal Democrats finished fifth in Britain and lost nearly all their seats at the European Parliament.  In Spain, the two main parties failed for the first time to get a combined 50 percent of the votes. Such was the upheaval that Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the leader of the Socialist Party, announced on Monday that he would step down after failing to capitalize on Spain’s economic woes and record unemployment to beat the governing Popular Party.

The Socialists apparently lost votes to other left-leaning parties, as well as to new groups led by Podemos, or We Can, a movement that was formed only a few months ago to oppose austerity cuts and demand fairer wage distribution.  Traditional parties sought to depict the ballot as a protest vote inspired by deep alienation among voters repelled by what they consider to be out-of-touch political elites at home and an arrogant European Union bureaucracy spreading its influence with no democratic mandate.

In Paris, the victory by the National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, prompted Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, to acknowledge: “It’s an earthquake.”  “We are in a crisis of confidence,” Mr. Valls added. “Our country has for a long time been in an identity crisis, a crisis about France’s place in Europe, Europe’s place in our country.”  President François Hollande of France called an emergency meeting of senior ministers after his Socialist Party finished a remote third.
My earlier coverage is here.