The 2014 European Parliament elections have been characterised by an alarming surge in populists groups, with the British UKIP and French Front National dominating national elections and increasing their presence in the EP by 31 seats. The public flocked to vote for anti-European parties across several EU member states and even Malta elected its own Eurosceptic representative, but carefully packaged him in socialist colours.
Like many other staunch supporters of the European Union, the rise of right wing and left wing parties in the European Parliament is cause for much concern. The following is a brief overview of how major European democracies have voted so far, with many results still being preliminary:
- Denmark -DPP (Denmark People’s Party) – gained 2 seats for a total of 4 MEPs. A right-wing party that is affiliated with the now defunct AEN (Alliance for Europe of the Nations). Current MEPs sit with the EFD (Europe of Freedom and Democracy)
- France – FN (Front National) – won an additional 21 seats for a total of 25 MEPs. Far right group part of the pan political group EAF (European Alliance for Freedom EP group)
- Germany – NPD (National Democratic Party of Germany) – Won their first seat in the EP. A far right Neo-nazi group that is part of a non-recognized political party called the European National Front. No word yet as to which party these will join or if they will become Non-Inscrits (not affiliated with any group)
- Greece – SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) – estimated to win an additonal 5 seats for a total of 6 MEPs. Radical Left group part of the GUE/NGL (European United Left/Nordic Green Left )
- Greece – Golden Dawn – Estimated to win their first 3 seats in the EP. A far right Neo-nazi group that is part of a non-recognized political party called the European National Front. No word yet as to which party these will join or if they will become Non-Inscrits (not affiliated with any group)
- Ireland – Sinn Fein – won their first three seats. A far left group that is expected to sit with the GUE/NGL (European United Left/Nordic Green Left )
- Italy – Five Star Movement – a new party that has won 17 seats in the EP. A Far right party that is considered populist and highly Eurosceptic
- UK – UKIP (UK Independence Party) – won an additional 10 seats for a total of 23 MEPs. Far right group part of the EFD (Europe of Freedom and Democracy)
Until official results have been published, eurosceptic these far right and left party groups have increased their total seats by 62, to give a total of 82.
There are also many other small periphery parties from several member states that have gained a couple of seats in these elections. At the moment, all eyes are on Marine Le Pen’s FN group, as it is set to start consulting with other parties to form a coalition and create a new parliamentary group in the EP. This would mean that more funding and more influence in decision making processes. However, several larger populists group such as UKIP do not want to join forces with parties such as FN and SYRIZA and they find their views too extremist.
Malta and the EP elections
Malta has also experienced such a shift in voting regimes, with far right Imperium Europa doubling its votes (so far) from the 2009 elections. Candidates from this party will not be elected, but a shift of 17,000 plus votes to periphery parties from Malta’s usual two main parties is a considerable change.
The issue with the Maltese EP results is the election of Alfred Sant, an ex-Prime Minister who campaigned vociferously against EU accession, going as far as claiming that the ‘yes’ win was not true and that his party had won the referendum. Sant’s ideology is more closely aligned to eurosceptic parties, similar to how Farage and La Pen speak out against the EU “one-size-fits-all” policy, so one wonders how his presence in the S&D group will be greeted. Sant considers himself to be a euro-realist, but this dogma is in itself not characteristic of the S&D group, but of the ECR group (European Conservatives and Reformists), made up mainly of the British Conservative Party.
It is sad to see how the Maltese electorate went out in droves to vote for Sant, without realising that they are effectively electing a candidate that does not fit the bill of a true European socialist. After personally witnessing how passionately S&D president Hannes Swoboda spoke about the future of the EU with the next Commission presidency at the European Business Summit, will Swoboda welcome Sant to the fray with open arms?
My greatest concern with the 2014 EP elections in Malta is the interpretation of the 48,739 first count votes (18.9% of votes cast) which Sant received. Since the Maltese PM stated that this win for the Labour Party is to be interpreted as a vote of confidence in the Labour government, should we also possibly interpret it as a vote of confidence in Alfred Sant and his eurosceptic ideology? If Alfred Sant decides to run as an independent one day or set up his own party, and get elected to the EP, how will that affect the Maltese political landscape?
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The next five years will definitely provide an uphill struggle for the main pro-European political parties, irrespective of their majority in the Parliament. The pronounced presence of the eurosceptics and the alarming presence of neo-nazis will surely make plenary sessions very heated, and will push controversial subjects such as immigration and austerity measures to the forefront of the agenda. One also wonders how long it will take for Alfred Sant to defer from the S&D group before his eurosceptic or self-professed eurorealist nuances surface.