EU FREEDOM: The Path to a Populist Victory in Europe
Guest post by Felipe Cuello
According to the Poll of Polls website – an aggregator of polls in the EU member states – the centrist mainstream parties in the European Parliament (S&D, ALDE and EPP, from left to right) stand to win about 400 of the 705 seats in May’s European Parliament election.
Should this result stand, The federalist establishment will continue the long march toward ever closer Union.
Manfred Weber, a German, the EPP’s presidential candidate, will likely ascend to the Presidency of the European Commission, where his fellow EPP member Jean-Claude Juncker currently exercises power.
In other words—not much changes.
But there are a number of wrinkles in this picture for the federalists.
The first is the prospect of defections.
There are a number of marriages of convenience in the EPP whose loyalty to the ruling party is questionable.
Silvio Berlusconi and his Forza Italia, which contested the recent Italian election in coalition with the Lega, are in the EPP. They don’t belong there.
Hungary’s Fidesz, led by Viktor Orbán, is also an awkward partner in the ruling EPP coalition. He is willing to leave.
The euro-reformist, sovereigntist, strong borders positions taken by many southern/eastern European rightist politicians is much more in line with the eurosceptics than with the federalist establishment. Another pick up.
The S&D and ALDE face similar headwinds now that their viability as a vehicle for power is in question – Macron didn’t bother joining ALDE, opting to merely point them out as his preferred partner in Strasbourg (presumably only if ALDE gets to play kingmaker).
Given Macron’s abandonment of the French Socialist party to found his own Movement, it is a near-certainty that his guiding principle is not loyalty to a European political grouping.
Another major wrinkle is the prospect of Britain failing to leave the EU on March 29.
An extension to the Article 50 negotiations is being raised in London, which would further dilute federalist numbers in centrist stalwarts like Germany.
Britain is the most eurosceptic country in the Union and there is a clear need for an electoral outlet to some of the frustrations surrounding the procedure – Jeremy Corbyn’s official position is to advocate for a general election, and many Remainers are steadfast in demanding a second EU referendum.
Nigel Farage, formerly of UKIP, is openly cultivating a new movement (“Leave means Leave”) along with the eurosceptic faction of the Tory party.
Farage’s ticket led to a first-place showing in the 2014 European elections, where they allied with Italy’s 5-star movement to form the EFDD grouping.
Given the Tories’ membership in the ECR (there is no EPP franchise in the UK), this scenario has no silver lining for the establishment – The Lib-Dems (ALDE) barely make double digits, and a serious argument could be made that Corbyn’s Labour party belongs with the NLG-GUE (Eurosceptic left) grouping, rather than the federalist neoliberals in the S&D.
NGL-GUE may well be the last piece of the puzzle – Jean-Luc Mélenchon has been making common cause with Marine Le Pen during the Gilet Jaune protests that have wracked France.
Germany’s Die Linke is the sole German eurosceptic alternative to the right-wing AfD.
Emboldened and energized by popular mobilizations in countries like Greece such a Left-Right bloc, it bears reminding that Le Pen, like Farage, placed first in the 2014 election. Her support has grown.
It is also not hard to see “mainstream” leftist voters delivering a first or second place showing for NGL-GUE franchises in generally federalist strongholds like Sweden.
There is no left-wing equivalent of the ECR grouping – a mainstream reformist opposition to the centre.
The Greens will likely jump at the chance to be included in a centrist coalition, and it is certainly likely that that parties, like Germany’s Die Linke, will rule out cooperation with their ideological opposites, on principle.
Still, there is prospect of an Mélenchoniste faction of NGL-GUE splitting off to support an anti-centrist coalition.
Of Europe’s 10 largest countries, only Germany lacks a eurosceptic force that consistently outperforms the mainstream parties in European elections. AfD power is however growing.
Current projections put the eurosceptics about 100-150 seats away from an outright majority – but they have 6 months to turn that math around.
They could do that by peeling off votes, bringing in new partners, showing strong in the big countries and with a bit of luck take over the European Union.
Then it would be a whole new ballgame!