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Weekend Voting: EU and Ukraine

  • May 27th, 2014
  • Posted by EU Australia

Voters in the elections for the European Parliament gave a big boost to the right-wing nationalist parties campaigning on anti-EU and anti-immigration platforms – especially in France and the United Kingdom.

Ukraine presidential elections EU flagg - EU

The elections in Ukraine saw a strong turn-out, except in the strife-torn Eastern region, and a huge win for the front-runner, Petro Poroshenko.

STRONG PUSH IN FRFANCE AND UK

The French National Front party (FN) led by Marine Le Pen, and the United Kingdom Independence Party led by Nigel Farage, both emerged as the first party in the poll, an event described by one senior French Minister as an “earthquake”.

While those two parties do not actually approve of each other and are not expected to sit as a bloc, they belong to a family group on the populist right that also made gains in other countries, including Austria, Denmark and Germany – though the German vote overall went towards the governing Christian Democrats.

EARTHQUAKE

What caused the “earthquake”?

Opinion polling as the EP elections rolled on in different countries, 21-25.5.14, showed it was an explicit rejection of the European project, amid the frustrations of the times.

Said Le Monde: The FN support came heavily from manual workers and the young, groups susceptible to persistent high unemployment since before this Century began, and especially since the onset of financial crisis in 2007-8.

Those voters felt the European Union had “failed to protect them”.

See EUAustralia Online, on the elections and economic conditions: EP Elections: world-weary voters make their choice, 24.5.14.

Indications on the day showed that voting numbers were likely to be up a few points since five years ago, getting towards 40% participation; (against 43% who voted in 2009, and 70% in the first public elections for the EP in 1979).

REACTIONS

The mainstream parties of the centre-left and centre-right have been acknowledging the obvious, that they will need to find some new and productive responses; some said it would be to “simplify” the processes of the European Union, very battered after the years of well-simplified attacks upon its honour.

More pressure is now brought to bear on the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who has promised a referendum on staying within the EU, and has been asking for a renegotiation of the fundamental treaties. See EUAustralia Online, Vote on EU: Brits (at last!) may go, 24.1.13.

Outspoken Europhobes in the ranks of his Conservative Party may well be exasperated this week to see themselves out-bid in the electoral upsurge, the party’s radical neo-liberalism and progressive conservatism tendencies both firmly rejected.

Nigel Lafarge imparted he would be cautious about any transfer of the trend into home elections, but did tell an Australian reporter, if he had his way, they’d go back to Britain’s empire-wide trading economy; (send frozen beef, get useless motorcars).

The French Socialist Party government saw its vote collapse to 16%, the kind of break-down from which there is often no recovery – though it has happened before in France.

OTHER TRENDS

The anti-‘European’ movement had set-backs, especially in Italy which gave emphatic support to the incumbent Democratic Party, under Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, giving it over 40% of votes;  pushing aside the no-to-‘Europe’ Five Star movement, and relegating the centre-right wing Forza Italia to third place.

Left parties made gains against the movement in Greece and Spain.

Projections on the results indicate the European Parliament will not be changed by much,  with the EU-aligned centre-left and centre-right groupings keeping about 70% of seats in the parliament –  possibly ready to form a ‘Grand Coalition’ and enforce a main program.

BACKS TO THE WALL

Just the same, as the polling closed those parties were seen to be, in a “dos au mur” situation  – backs to the wall, (Le Monde 26.5.14).

What diagnosis?

Unemployment has been the underlying issue, youth unemployment especially, a fact never wasted on the European Union. Its polling has showed it plainly (See EUAustralia Online, EP elections …, 24.3.14).  The outgoing President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, at the EU summit of March last year, listed youth joblessness as a priority target, but one demanding “sustained and long-term effort”, (EUAustralia Online, EU heads meet, 17.3.13.)

Economic stress has accentuated the accompanying, and biting issues, not least immigration; both external migration by land, and by rickety boat across the sea; and also free movement within the EU – and its labour movement.

PETRO POROSHENKO’S WIN IN UKRAINE

The way ahead for Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine, despite all ambiguities, looks very clear as he tells the story.

The billionaire and former Minister (for three years during 2009-12) captured public trust, getting a hands-down victory in the first round of voting, over 54% – no other candidate close, no second round needed to follow.

He declared he would put down the rebellion by armed, ‘pro-Russian’ separatists, “terrorists” he said, in the country’s East, if they would not  give up the struggle. Depending on any involvement in bloodshed, they could obtain an amnesty, and collectively they might be mollified by a policy of granting autonomy to the regions.

Shooting had started before the polls closed, as insurgents attacked the airport at Donetsk, dislodged after heavy fighting, including air strikes by the Ukrainian air force, with at least 50 dead. Government heads in Russia, looking on, expressing displeasure, had been wanting Poroshenko to sue for negotiation with the rebel groups.

The newly elected President said he would be tackling corruption; he would engineer economic development of country, to extract it from its years of financial crisis; create openings towards both Russia and the European Union; and so, push on to achieve peace for Ukraine.

Reference

Euractiv, Brussels, Parliament set for grand coalition after EU election despite Eurosceptic rise, 26.5.14. http://www.euractiv.com/video/parliament-set-grand-coalition-after-eu-election-despite-eurosceptic-rise-50187, (27.5.14).
__ Voter participation higher than expected in France, Germany, 25.5.14. http://www.euractiv.com/sections/eu-elections-2014/voter-participation-higher-expected-france-germany-302372, (25.5.14).

Le Monde, Paris, Européennes : le PS et l’UMP menacés par un séisme présidentiel, (European elections; an earthquake now menacing the PS and UMP parties for the presidential elections) (26.5.14). http://www.lemonde.fr/, (26.5.14).

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