Following last Sunday’s European Parliament election the press has been gloomy and for a time, so was I. This is a quick post to see the forest and the trees and to consider “how much wood can these wood chucks chuck”. The post below contextualises the results of this latest election with figures describing the distribution of seats throughout the various elections, turnout, as well as popularity in France, the UK and Germany.
Considering the recent performance of several economic variables, it becomes clear that economic woes are making people disenchanted with the establishment and looking for an alternative and scape goats. While the fact that Eurosceptic parties are not dominant in the periphery (aside from Greece, perhaps) certainly implies that poor economic performance does not necessarily lead to a rise in extreme right-wing parties, the salience of the Front National (FN) in France may suggest that a negative economic environment may fuel right-wing extremism more in traditionally richer countries that are prone to attributing their unusually slower growth pace to their neighbours.
However, the extent to which the average 40% of the electorate that turned out to vote on Sunday is representative of the broader European electorate is arguable. While it is a plausible argument, it is not clear whether the discontent is with Europe or with the national politicians. In the short term, the European Parliament does not have the sort of sweeping fiscal or military powers that could see the rise of the extreme right among its ranks make a lot of damage. Schengen and the Euro are not about to die. But these parties and the discontent that they represent will continue to affect the agenda. I for one don’t think that putting an end to the Euro or to Schengen will solve anything at all. It will make us more alienated from each other putting up barriers we were lucky that the previous generation destroyed and bringing back the ghost of (failed) exchange rate manipulation. I conclude with some brief references to the fact that the fact that more integration could solve the underlying economic problem behind what discontent may actually be there.
So if you are appalled by these results, you do kind of have yourself to blame. Next time go out and vote. It is too incredibly simple not to do it!