This post is a fair bit longer than our usual fair but is an excellent overview of the recent European elections from our perspective. Matthew Tyrmand is extremely influential in American and Polish political circles. He is also a good friend of the Pickering Post. His article was originally published at the excellent Human Events website which can be found here and is reproduced with his kind permission.
“He can be followed on Twitter @MatthewTyrmand”
The global anti-establishment nationalist populist inflection continues to be validated in Europe by Sunday’s European parliamentary election.
Twenty-eight European Union member nations went to the polls last weekend to cast their vote to send yet another message to the political establishment of the continent. The message is again clear: back off the degrading of nation states. This is a continuation of the series of messages they have been sending now for over five years.
Starting with a hard shift rightward in Central Eastern Europe (the Visegrad 4: Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia) the European political establishment subcultures across the continent, pushing deeper integration in political decision making, have been falling like dominoes.
Brexit in 2016 rocked the European Union to its integrationist core.
Brexit in 2016 rocked the European Union (EU) to its integrationist core and was truly the inflection moment, as heretofore the EU was going in one direction – growth in states and population, and “cohesion” and “harmonization” of policymaking further impinging on the sovereign decision making capacity of member states.
Despite the pleasant sound of such words, meant to evoke grand trans-national partnership that would prevent continental strife of the most violent sort from ever roiling the European continent again, what transpired was really a full on abrogation of the Westphalian order (1648’s Treaty of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years War and set the stage for recognition of national sovereignty and the prevention of interference in other states’ domestic affairs…the antithesis of the EU project).
For five decades the EU grew unabated, and with this came imposition of a federally centralized political will, without direct mandate. Ordinary people found this increasingly irksome, and increasingly threatening to their own security.
What started with regulatory enforcement of the curvature of bananas grew into who has what fishing rights on national ancestral waters and, most recently: to refugee and migrant resettlement policy and what was seen as the most glaring overreach to all (sans the most committed integrationists): border enforcement and the willing breakdown thereof.
People instinctively understand that without delineated borders there is no nation state whatsoever.
The curtain had been pulled back on the willing ignorance of national electorates by the Eurocrats in 2012 and 2013 in Greece and Italy respectively, when those national elections and government formations saw direct intervention by pro-integration Europhiles led by Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy.
From that moment, populist nationalist parties sprang up or gathered strength.
Greece might have broken away first, years ahead of Brexit, with the potential to catalyze Italy behind her. Only a reversion back to the Drachma and an exit from the EU would have allowed the Greek people to avoid crippling austerity imposed on them by the Troika (European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund).
Instead, they were forced to follow Brussels austerity edicts (resulting in mass unemployment), pushed by German banks whose balance sheets would have been deeply impaired by wholesale Greek debt write downs.
From that moment, populist nationalist parties sprang up or gathered strength. Beppe Grillo started touring Italy selling out stadiums as he ranted about the Eurocrat breakdown of Italian sovereignty. Domestic parties such as UKIP and the Front National rose in visibility and stature and voter support at this moment despite having been around for many years previous.
Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom in the Netherlands began to achieve more widespread appeal (17 per cent support in the May 2014 European Parliamentary elections). These examples are merely representative, but going country to country across the entire federation there were clear examples change was underfoot and an inflection in EU sentiment was taking place.
Marine Le Pen and other European Party leaders (Flickr)
The Brexit vote, followed by the bungling and sabotage of the British establishment and the Eurocracy, further demonstrated that citizens’ voices and votes were truly an afterthought to European political leadership.
The inflectionary trend continued into last week’s elections, and though it was not a clean sweep across the continent, many important national players in the Brussels complex saw nationalist populist parties make gains, and the European Parliament as a whole will see more political power move into the hands of those who believe in devolution of power back to nation states.
To my mind, there are 12 highly interesting national storylines stemming from the elections:
THE VERY GOOD
Marine Le Pen’s rebranded National Rally asserted itself as the new dominant nationalist populist right wing party of Continental Europe with a number one showing last Sunday.
She beat the President Macron and his pseudo-party En Marche, whose popularity has plummeted thanks to his lapdog-like-loyalty to Merkel, his aloof incompetence, and in large part to the populist “Yellow Vest” movement which has taken to the streets continuously for months on end in protest of his administration and the establishment status quo.
The Yellow Vests saw the economic and political elites as insensitive to working class struggle. In a sign of his true “let them eat cake” mentality, Macron condemned them, sent out the police to forcefully stifle them, and to abrogate their right to assembly. Inevitably, ahead of the election, he offered some concessions. Too little too late.
Le Pen will now be a bigger force than ever.
[Macron] is the lamest of all European ducks.
After Macron’s 2017 presidential election victory, the French, European, and global media elite did a victory lap, clapping like trained seals, claiming they had beat back the scourge of populist nationalism. Fast forward to this past Sunday and you realize Macron did not in fact defeat anything, nor did he heed the burgeoning populist sentiment. Now he is the lamest of all European ducks.
The party led by ‘Mr. Brexit’ Nigel Farage absolutely owned this election.
Farage is the most inspirational political figure of our time, bar none.
Farage speaks at a Brexit Party rally in Peterborough (IncMonocle/Stuart Mitchell used with permission)
For two decades he has been one man against the integrationist establishment machine, almost always politically alone, until it was clear the masses were with him. He has changed the global political landscape indelibly, not just in Europe, as his clarion call to wake up the people from those who would usurp their political birthright: their nation’s sovereignty, catalyzed political movements and change all over the globe.
In this election, Farage delivered once again singlehandedly blowing up the Conservative Party and Labour (which received 4 and 10 seats respectively).
These two establishment parties, right and left respectively, received fewer than half of the Brexit Party’s European parliamentary seats. Those who stood in the way of its delivery, overtly or behind the curtains, got thwacked.
As Human Events Editor in Chief Raheem Kassam points out, this is the fifth consecutive electoral message sent to the political class to deliver Brexit. Given the newfound support the modern day father of Euroscepticism (Farage) has in the parliament now; expect the current rump Parliament in Britain to now help deliver what the free citizens of Britain voted for by honest referendum.
…this is the fifth consecutive electoral message sent to the political class to deliver Brexit.
And perhaps a Prime Minister Farage tenure is on the horizon… something the British media establishment will pooh pooh as impossible. Given their propensity to project nothing accurately, this alone should change the odds set by the bookmakers.
Matteo Salvini of the League, Deputy Prime Minister, and the most popular politician in Italy by a large margin, hit the ball out of the park too, getting more than a third of the votes and lapping the runner-up establishment social democrats.
Anti-establishment, Eurosceptic leftist party Five Star came in third, giving Salvini more support in dealing with the Eurocracy. Together they received over half the votes cast and have almost 3/5 of the EP seats. Toss in the arch conservative Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni’s party, who received 6.5 per cent and 5 seats, and Italian Eurosceptics dominate the caucus with close to two thirds representation. Apparently, Merkel-devised open borders policies allowing mass incursion of third world refugees and economic migrants looking to exploit social welfare systems does not play so well with the people who have to deal with the chaos that is wrought as a result of their entry to the continent, via Italian ports.
Salvini (Creative Commons)
Who knew? If another exit referendum will be put forward in the next five years look to Italy as that is likely where it will be. (“Quit-aly” anyone?)
Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the modern day Jan Sobieski of Europe – who technocratically (and with good border fencing) turned away Merkel’s hordes (i.e. Germany’s desired future cheap labor force) much like the Polish king did during the 1683 Siege of Vienna – saw his party’s (Fidesz) mandate renewed yet again.
With over half the votes and two thirds of the seats in the EP the question is how long can Fidesz remain allied in Brussels with the European People’s Party: the squishy, self-described center right Brussels political group that does nothing to hold the Eurocracy to account.
Central European nations know the experience of imperial rule doled out by far-off mandarin political decision makers and they reject it and will fight to devolve these powers back to their constituent nation states.
…the allegations by global media that Hungary is fascist, ethnonationalist, autocratic, and even “Nazi,” carries less than zero credibility.
Interestingly, Jobbik, the far right ethnonationalist fringe party lost two seats, leaving just one in the chamber, proving once again (after Hungarian national elections) that Orban has subsumed their mandate through his rational rightism and his excellent stewardship of the nation. Thus the allegations by global media that Hungary as with the other still-transitioning post-Soviet Iron Curtain nations are fascist, ethnonationalist, autocratic, and even “Nazi,” carries less than zero credibility.
A convincing, albeit not unexpected win for the incumbent conservative nationalist populist Law & Justice (PiS) party led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
Truly, the best result for any party in Polish history in nationwide elections (45.38 per cent) amidst the largest turnout in Polish history (over 45 per cent) in a European Parliamentary election.
Photo by Kancelaria Sejmu/Rafał Zambrzycki – Flickr/CC
This win of more than half the Polish contingent’s EP seats (26 of 51) is a credit to PiS’s strong organizational structures across the country and to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who was everywhere in Poland the last few months making the strong case for his last 18 months of governmental stewardship.
Policies instituted under Morawiecki, such as stipends for having in excess of one child in an attempt to stave off demographic inversion, have proven to be immensely popular.
Even with a specially constructed coalition, the opposition could not overcome PiS popularity. Rational anti-establishment centrist conservatism, nationalism, and populism sells well in Poland, as it should.
Also of note, other parties in Poland: the new upstart Wiosna (Spring), led by former Mayor of Slupsk Robert Biedron, a darling of the leftist urban elite, squeaked in at 6 per cent. This further proves just how unpopular Eurocentric leftists and ex-Communists are to Poles.
The Kukiz Party failed to make it as their aging rock star leader (Pawel Kukiz) has shown very little with respect to political leadership these last four years and many of his supporters flocked to the new far right attempt at a party: Konfederacja.
This recently cobbled together coalition was comprised of the nationalist movement (Ruch Narodowy- RN), Janusz Korwin Mikke’s pseudo-libertarian Korwin Party, Grzegorz Braun, a fringe commentator who spreads conspiracy theories, usually about Zionist imperialism and “the Jews,” and Liroy, an ex-rapper and formerly the most popular member of Kukiz’s party, who has proven to be a credible lawmaker.
Thankfully, the sad joke that is Konfederacja is now over.
The platform of Konfederacja was purely predicated on propagating ginned up racially-stoked ethnonationalist anger at everyone and everything, making them a sort of Polish Jobbik. The fact they did not break the 5 per cent threshold for EuroParl seats should assuage the global media left’s persistent worries that Poland is an ethnonationalist, fascist, racist, anti-Semitic, blah blah blah society.
Had Konfederacja received a mandate this certainly would have been utilized by the global media left to bolster their over the top fallacious allegation that the Polish right is institutionally anti-Semitic. Thankfully, the sad joke that is Konfederacja is now over. Expect PiS to win easily in October/November’s national election. Probably with an even bigger mandate than before.
Land of mussels, chocolate, statues of little boys peeing in fountains, technocrats, and now ascendant Flemish nationalists. The top two vote-getters were the conservative reformist New Flemish Alliance and the more radical rightist Flemish First party.
Together they received almost a quarter of the vote. Former Belgian PM and arch globalist Guy Verhofstadt decided to do a bizarre victory lap despite his party (Flemish Liberals and Democrats) and their ALDE alliance with the Francophone Reformists losing a third of their six seats.
Sebastian Kurz’s Austrian People’s Party (OVP), more Euro-realist and reform-focused than staunchly Eurosceptic, cleaned up with over a third of the vote while the Austrian Freedom Party (FPO), mired in the Ibizagate scandal that broke a week ahead of the election still received 17 per cent and 3 seats.
Arbeitsbesuch von Au§enminister Sebastian Kurz in Berlin. Treffen mit dem deutschen Au§enminister Frank Walter Steinmeier im Auswertigen Amt. Berlin, 15.01.2014, Foto: Dragan Tatic / Flickr
The coalition between OVP/FPO is now fractured and Kurz received a no-confidence vote brought on by the FPO in the Austrian parliament. Despite this politicking, the state of Austrian populist nationalism and leeriness toward Brussels designs on deeper integration (especially post the Austrian experience during the migrant/refugee crisis created by Angela Merkel) and less rigid borders is still healthy with these two parties representing more than half the Austrian electorate as determined by Sunday’s plebiscite.
Still not part of the EU, it seems the Swiss have maintained the sober wisdom for which they are famous the better part of the last millennium. This societal wisdom applies to issues such as widespread gun ownership, necessary debates on minarets and calls to prayer with regard to preservation of Swiss culture, ease of calling popular referenda, stable governments elected by the most direct democracy in Europe, etc. Brussels Eurocrats can learn much from their Swiss counterparts. But they won’t.
THE MODERATELY GOOD
In more good news, the SPD, hard core establishment socialists dating back to the times of Karl Marx himself, lost 11 of 27 seats…
The Eurosceptic border hawks, and bane of the German establishment’s existence, Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) picked up 4 seats (from 7 to 11), and received 11 per cent of the vote. A little disappointing perhaps as they previously polled 18.5 per cent.
The epitome of the German establishment, “the Union” between the CDU and CSU still won but with a diminishing mandate losing 5 seats this cycle.
In more good news, the SPD, hard core establishment socialists dating back to the times of Karl Marx himself, lost 11 of 27 seats in what was the biggest drubbing of any large scale incumbent party anywhere on the continent. Their support went to the Greens, the more anti-establishment socialists focused on environmental policy.
The Greens picked up 10 seats nearly doubling their Brussels representation from 11 to 21.
These returns suggest people realize there is something rotten in Deutschland, but the far left was able to exploit this while the right is still not mass palatable to Germans. They are Germans after all, and the guilt riddling conditioning from cradle to grave (media, academy, et al) in contemporary Germany is a powerful driver of societal zeitgeist.
Angela Merkel, EPP Flickr
The Pro-EU Dutch establishment protected their position by and large with Labour (socialists) and the current Prime Minister’s party (VVD) taking almost a third of the vote, in line with their recent electoral support levels.
The rising Eurosceptic Democracy Forum (FvD) made it into the EP for the first time (receiving 11 per cent and three seats). This is good news but Euro-hawks expected them to receive more.
These are the mature Eurosceptics with several experienced European politicians such as Derk Eppink (a former MEP a decade ago) building out this effort. They will be a rising force in Dutch politics. Realists and sceptics will have over a quarter of the seats (7 of 26) which is quite strong for a country married as tightly as the Dutch are to the European super-state project.
Dutch politics is highly fragmented with nine parties having received at least one seat in Brussels.
A green shoot of Euroscepticism rose in lefty, socialist Spain recently in the form of the far right nationalist populist party Vox.
Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) did not make it in this time, losing their 4 seats predominantly to FvD suggesting his sometimes abrasive hyperbole has worn thin with the Dutch right. This is marginally a net positive as the more sober, mature FvD will take up the mantle of Euroscepticism in the Netherlands.
A green shoot of Euroscepticism rose in lefty, socialist Spain recently in the form of the far right nationalist populist party Vox.
Scenes from a Vox rally in Spain — Flickr CC
The Spanish establishment had already been up in arms about their rise since a month ago they came out of nowhere and unexpectedly received over 10 per cent in Spanish elections. Global media hit pieces have proliferated since, dinging them up a bit, but with 3 seats in Brussels and 24 in Spanish parliament they will be a party to watch.
On the left side, Podemos, whose main thrust is protesting EU austerity measures, received over 10 per cent and six seats and together with Vox represent growing Euroscepticism on the Iberian peninsula (now nine seats almost doubling support up from five last cycle).
Expect many more attacks on Vox in coming months as they are a rising and credible threat to the Spanish political establishment.
The Sweden Democrats (SD) came in third with 15 per cent support and three seats, up from two. A good showing albeit not a sterling one given the social chaos that has engulfed Sweden the last few years since opening their borders (and social welfare programs) to untold millions of third world migrants.
…the Swedish establishment, much like their German cousins across the Baltic, seem to continue to plow their heads into the sand.
The societal make up of Sweden has changed, not for the better, as evidenced by sectarian violence, rape on the rise, misogyny, arson, and the rise of the ubiquitous urban “no-go zones” that Human Events Editor in Chief Raheem Kassam has fastidiously documented.
But the Swedish establishment, much like their German cousins across the Baltic, seem to continue to plow their heads into the sand. SD will continue to rise in support as more and more Swedes on the ground are mugged by reality.
With the Eurosceptic composition (both of the right and the left varietals) of the European Parliament ticking up, validated by the highest turnout in a quarter century (~51 per cent vs. 42 per cent in 2014) voters sent the establishment “center left” and “center right” parties a clear message: bugger off.
The conventional Brussels consensus driven policies of more cohesion, integration, and policy harmonization is not desired by the 28 national populations of the transnational statist project. Right of center sceptics did well, but the left side, typified by national Green parties, blew out much of the establishment incumbents.
Although Eurocentrists will still control the chamber when it comes to practical matters, the new composition will create headwinds for deeper integration.
Farage thinks to the future — Stuart Mitchell/IncMonocle with permission
The double standards regarding rule of law, applied heavy handedly to CEE nations such as Poland and Hungary, but never trotted out when Macron turns the hoses on French working class protestors, will be called out more and more. Ultimately the high water mark of European integration that existed before the Brexit vote, will remain so, with the nationalist populist trend from 2016 onward fully intact.
When Polish exiled soldiers, during the Polish partition of the 18th and 19th century, fought in independence movements all over the world (including the American revolution), they used to exclaim as their motto: “for your freedom and ours.”
This sentiment applies to this European parliamentary election and although not a flawless result for Eurosceptics, nationalists, populists, libertarians, Westphalians, and anti-statists it is, much like, as the old joke goes, “10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea,” a good start.