Monday, June 8, 2009

Analysis of EU elections

Europe swings to the right

Crisis? What crisis? Despite the credit crunch and the resulting economic crisis, Europeans gave a vote of confidence in the free market ideology by voting mostly for centre-right parties in the European parliament polls that closed on Sunday night.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi have reason to celebrate. German chancellor Angela Merkel did less well, but she was able to minimise the predicted loss. All these leaders belong to the European People's Party, which looks set to remain the biggest political group in the European parliament.

For the past five years, Christian democrats and conservatives formed a majority with the liberals in the European parliament. This allowed the parliament to approve measures aimed at liberalising many sectors that were previously in the public domain: mail services, railways, telecommunications and energy among them. The socialist group on the other hand warned against the risks of the free market economy. It had demanded stricter controls on hedge funds well ahead of the financial crisis, but to no avail.
"This is a difficult evening for the socialists in many countries," said Martin Schulz, the president of the socialist group in the European parliament. Schulz was addressing fellow socialists who had gathered in the parliament in Brussels via video link from Berlin. Many of them looked defeated on Sunday night, much to the annoyance of the Dane Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, the president of the European socialist party, who said it was now more important than ever to fight for a social Europe. "Your body language is out of tune with the message," Rasmussen admonished the parliamentarians.

Just ahead of the meeting of the socialist group, Dutch Labour (PvdA) parliamentarian Jan Marinus Wiersma admitted that the result was "disappointing". The message that the socialists were the best choice to protect the European citizens against the effects of the economic crisis did not come across, said Wiersma. In order to cheer up his colleagues, Wiersma highlighted the results in two countries where the socialists did well: Slovakia and Malta. "Not the biggest countries, but still."

Wiersma's PvdA lost four of its seven seats in the European parliament. In Germany, the SPD was reduced to 21.3 percent of the vote - its lowest nationwide result since World War II. In Britain, where six Labour ministers resigned because of a scandal over parliamentary expenses, prime minister Gordon Brown was resisting calls for resignation after his party suffered an historic defeat in European and local elections. The Labour party secured just 15.4 per cent of the European votes to finish behind the Tories (28 percent) and the UK Independence Party (17.5 percent) but just ahead of the Liberal Democrats (14 pct.)
Based on incomplete results, the new European parliament - which is smaller than the old one with 736 instead of 785 members - will look something like this: the Christian democrats remain the biggest group with 263 to 273 seats. The socialists, despite heavy losses, are in second place with 155 to 165 seats - down from 217. The third biggest group, the liberals, will shrink slightly, while the Green party gains slightly.

The result is good news for parliament president José Manuel Barroso who is seeking a second term. The socialist group in the parliament was the most critical of Barroso. The Portuguese, who is considered a 'liberal' president, already has the support of many heads of government. Europe's move to the right means that he has a good chance of getting the approval of the European parliament as well.

By Petra de Koning and Jeroen van der Kris for Nrc.nl

Here the results: Link - European elections results

Day Opening - June 8


...well known...