Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, May 30, 2014

Beware the headlines

The headlines about the European elections are misleading, says Doug Sanders writing in the Toronto Globe and Mail.

That far-right victory in Europe? It's not quite what it seems
It sounds like an old story: Battered by economic collapse and fraying political bonds, Europeans turn against one another and elect angry far-right political parties in droves.

Is that what happened Sunday night? The headline outcome, after almost 180 million people cast their ballots in the European Parliament election, was a big surge in support for anti-immigrant, anti-Europe and sometimes outright racist parties of the angry right-wing fringe. France and Britain, respectively, elected their largest batches of parliamentarians from the National Front – which has opposed French citizens of Jewish, Muslim and Roma backgrounds – and the anti-Europe, anti-immigrant UK Independence Party (UKIP). A quarter of all French, British and Danish voters cast their ballots for right-wing fringe parties.

Viewed from Europe’s western flank, it looked like an alarming tide of hate and intolerance. But the far right remained a minority unconnected to any governing parties – and it became more fragmented. A larger story might be the failure of extremists to gain traction beyond their core constituency of disenfranchised “outsider” voters, despite tough economic conditions.

“In the end, France is the only large EU member state with a credible and popular far right, which will probably account for almost 50 per cent of all far-right seats in the next European Parliament,” concluded Cas Mudde, an analyst of far-right politics at the University of Georgia, in an analysis before the election.

Ukraine’s outcome was the most dramatic… The ultra-nationalist, anti-Semitic Svoboda party and the fascist-leaning Pravy Sektor, both described as looming threats by Russian media, each attracted only about 1 per cent of the vote. That election was a huge victory for moderation and national unity…

The European Parliament remains a place largely given over to bland moderation. Once the votes were fully counted Monday, the largest winners were the parties of the moderate centre-right, which attracted 213 of 751 seats. They were followed by parties of the moderate centre-left, with 190 seats; liberals, with 64; and Greens, with 53.

The anti-Europe and far-right parties together collected about 130 seats; almost half of these were from Britain and France. In other words, these parties will play no part in the governing of Europe, as no mainstream parties will work with them…

Still, the French outcome remains alarming: In a country whose citizens include half of Europe’s Jews and its largest population of Muslims, it is distressing to see a quarter of voters cast ballots for the National Front, a virtually single-issue party devoted to opposition to Jews, Muslims and Roma…

The votes for angry fringe parties, analysts say, represent an alienated minority – the elderly, uneducated, as well as some perpetually unemployed youth – who are cast out of the mainstream political system, seemingly for good…

The bad news is that those voters aren’t going away. The only consolation is that they are, by definition, on the margins.

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At 10:18 AM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

Alan Carter wrote from Oxford:

I think the turn out for the Euro elections was 37%.

UKIP is probably about 10% of electorate. The coverage of UKIP was excessive. And now they have no policies since their dear leader, Mr Farage has torn up their manifesto (platform).

The ultra-right BNP vote collapsed.

The Greens were ignored by media in coverage.

I think the news editors want jobs with Sky News/Murdoch, so they don't want to be labelled left/liberal/green etc. So their coverage is meant to pander to Murdochs  and their anti-EU agenda.

The BBC parliament channel had a debate on the results and prospects for 2015 general election.

The sentiment was for a Lib-Dem collapse leaving Labour the largest party but with no overall control or allies for coalition. So we're back to 1974: a minority govt and another election 6 months later.


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