It’s hard to find adjectives strong enough to describe the losses which left-leaning socialist and labor parties face in the current European elections. To call it a debacle might be understatement. The European left has crashed and burned and the region faces a complete political paradigm shift with some very unexpected results. Never has a dominant political ideology suffered such an overwhelming rebuke and rejection from the voters since the era of revolutions when autocracy was cast out in favor of representative government. The final results are due tonight, but early reports leave only the question of the degree by which the left will be devastated Europe-wide.
The first indicator came several days ago when news of the result of the EU parliamentary election in the Netherlands was leaked, revealing that radical libertarian Geert Wilders and his Freedom Party had catapulted from being a fringe party to the second largest party in the nation, gaining 4 seats in the EU parliament and likely breaking up the ruling coalition, forcing the Christian Democrats to look for new support to remain in power and making concessions to the Freedom Party and their anti-immigrant, anti-EU agenda.
Britain already set the pattern for electing representatives to the EU parliament who were hostile to the body in which they are serving. The Netherlands will now be sending 4 more troublemakers to join British libertarian firebrand Daniel Hannan, and similar results are expected in other European countries including Ireland, Britain and Spain. Countries which recently elected more conservative governments like Poland, France and Germany are expected to see less radical change, but will likely still experience growth in conservative and libertarian parties. The fuil results of the EU parliamentary election will be announced Sunday evening.
This EU parliamentary election is an indicator of things to come in the internal politics of European nations, as demonstrated by Saturday’s devastating defeat for Britain’s Labour Party in local council elections. Labour, which used to dominate local council governments, has lost 300 seats and no longer controls any local councils at all. Labour’s loss has been described as being “wiped off the electoral map” in Britain, and in the EU election they are expected to come in behind virtually every party of any note, including the radical UK Independent Party.
These results will lead to shakeups in the governments of many European nations in the next few months. In combination with financial scandal and the resignation of 6 of his ministers, this change in the balance of power will likely lead to the replacement of Gordon Brown as Britain’s prime minister. In other nations there may be similar changes in the political landscape with conservative leaders and policies taking the forefront. If the current trends do not change, the next internal elections in many nations will probably produce dramatic political realignments.
The surge to the right in Europe is being driven by dissatisfaction with the economy, anger over immigration, fear of terrorism, high unemployment, dismay at the poor quality of healthcare and increasing popular alienation from the remote and unresponsive bureaucracy of the European Union. Voters want more local control, more national autonomy, restrictions on immigration and governmental reform. Whether newly empowered conservatives and small-government, anti-EU parties will find solutions for these problems remains to be seen.
Ironically, as President Obama tours Europe and talks with the leaders of various nations, those leaders may no longer be in power the next time he visits. As he moves America farther left politically the rest of the world seems to see their answer in moving in the opposite direction.