The crisis in Europe: what the radicals lack

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — The European Union could not agree on a budget this week – the reason was the departure of the UK , but even without this, Europe has something to argue about. Elections in many countries of the bloc – from  Ireland to  Germany  – end with disputes and forced unions, negotiations on which last for many months. And political scientists are increasingly talking about the crisis of traditional politics and the onset of “extreme” movements.

The leaders of the European Union at an emergency two-day summit could not agree on a common budget for 2021-2027. One of the main reasons for this was the British exit from the EU, due to which the block was missing about € 60-75 billion, as the EU representatives themselves said – however, there are plenty of reasons for disagreements between European politicians without financial friction.

Following the results of last year’s elections to the same European Parliament, many “polar” figures who often can’t (or are not even going to) find a common language have been elected as deputies. We are talking about representatives of the extreme parties of both the right and left spectrum, who have recently been actively crowding out the traditional moderate elite.

However, they usually do not have enough strength for a decisive breakthrough, therefore, in the elections, both “new” and “old” usually finish approximately the same.

Nobody succeeds in picking up power and delivering a decisive blow – which translates into constant re-election and the inability to properly lead the country.

Right now, two EU countries are experiencing such difficulties right away, which at first glance are completely different from each other. It is about Ireland and  Belgium.

In the elections held in early February in Ireland, the triumph was unexpectedly celebrated by the left patriotic party Sinn Fein, whose popularity doubled in two months. According to Politico, in December 13% of Irish were ready to vote for the party, while before the election this figure reached 25% – the first figure in the country.

The election results almost turned Irish politics upside down – “Sinn Fein”, which rivals reproached for radical views and nationalism, gained more than 24% of the vote and 37 seats in parliament. The moderate “Fine Gel” and “Fianna File”, traditionally sharing power until then, were content with 35 and 38 seats, for both parties this was a serious setback.

Thus, the Irish balance was broken under the pressure of social problems, for example, high rental prices and the need for medical reform. “Sinn Fein” promised the Irish the vast social spending, tax cuts and large-scale housing program – and won.

The main loser was Prime Minister Leo Varadkar , who built a campaign around the successes of his government in the negotiations on Brexit and in strengthening ties with the European Union.

However, internal problems outweighed external successes – and now moderate movements will have to find a compromise with those whom they consider radicals.

The question of the status of Northern Ireland will almost certainly be raised, the accession of which is steadily required by the Sinn Fein. Centrist circles are at a crossroads – to create a coalition, they can make an “injection of nationalism” in the form of an agreement with Sinn Fein, or combine the efforts of the entire moderate spectrum to gain a parliamentary majority. But this will not cancel the second place of “left radicals”.

A similar situation has already been encountered in the “heart of the European Union” – Belgium. Parliamentary elections were held there last May, but there is still no government in the country.
Voting actually divided the country in two – the Flemish north gave preference to the right, while the French-speaking south was left to the left and “green” politicians. Most of all, as in Ireland, moderate parties, in particular, social democrats, Christian democrats and liberals, suffered.

Tom Van Grieken, head of the Flemish Interest right-wing movement, demands new elections, blaming the rest of the party for inaction. Van Griken’s decisiveness is understandable – last May the Flemish Interest got as many as 15 additional seats, and the party’s popularity was consistently high.

Another popular right-wing politician, the leader of the New Flemish Alliance, Bart de Wever, comes up with another idea – to turn Belgium into a confederation, dividing the country into “right” and “left” parts.

“Wallonia has gone to the left, much more than ever. The difference between Flanders and Wallonia has never been so significant, ”RIA Novosti quoted as saying.

Such an idea does not look like a joke at all – the “New Flemish Alliance” remains the most popular party in the country with the largest number of seats in parliament, and other politicians have already spoken out in support of the “partition” of Belgium.

“Reality is our propaganda,” says Tom Van Grieken. “Every day without a government shows us that this country no longer works.”

It is entirely possible that in this case “not working” is not Belgium at all – the trend for protracted and tortured coalitions in recent years has spread to all of Europe, and not only to it. Among examples of this, Politico names the Netherlands and Germany, whose current governments were formed as a result of the longest negotiations in the history of these countries.

The same Germany lived without a government for about five months, from September 2017 to March 2018. The reason is the historically low results of the CDU / HHS ruling bloc (33%) and unsuccessful attempts to negotiate with the Greens movement and liberals from the Free Democratic Party.

As a result, the parties returned to the old version of the alliance with the Social Democrats, who were in a historical crisis, having lost 40 seats at once. The sharply oppositional right-wing “Alternative for Germany” (AdG), on the contrary, took off – from 0 to 94 representatives.

“Why conditionally“ radical ”parties replace“ moderate ”ones in elections? The main reason is a lot of dissatisfied with the policy of the authorities, and the most classic example of this is the sagging ratings of the SPD,” said the expert at the International Institute for Humanitarian and Political Research Vladimir Bruter.

The explosion of popularity of the “extreme” movements only intensifies their conflict with the moderate establishment. The example of Germany shows this particularly clearly – for example, Thomas Kemmerich, the head of the government of Thuringia, elected in early February, resigned because he was supported by the “Alternative for Germany”.

The ruling circles and Angela Merkel personally forced him to do this, who called the election result “unacceptable” and urged him to cancel. At the same time, Kemmerich himself was nominated from a completely different party, from liberals from the Free Democratic Party, but the very fact of his support from the ADG was unbearable for the parties in power.

However, this crisis did not pass without a trace – as a result, several federal officials immediately resigned, even the head of the ruling CDU, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who was called Merkel’s protege for chancellor, resigned.

“Thuringia became a“ trigger ”for the departure of Kramp-Karrenbauer, while the reason for this departure is its extremely low popularity as a politician, which negatively affects the ratings of the authorities,” adds Vladimir Bruter.

The Netherlands and Germany are not limited to this. Literally in January, Spain finally approved the leader of the socialists, Pedro Sanchez , as prime minister.

For this, it was necessary to hold parliamentary elections twice a year, since after the first (held in April) no one was able to achieve a majority. As a result, the socialists, led by Sanchez, nevertheless “squeezed” the victory, gaining a little less than a third of the votes (28%) and joining the coalition with the ultra-left movement “Podemos”.

The victory, however, turned out to be almost a pyrrhic – in the elections it sharply declared itself and the right-hand party VOX jumped to third place, adding 28 seats compared to previous results.

To overpower the right bloc, Sanchez compromised with the other edge of the political spectrum in the person of Podemos, who are planning massive social spending and almost a nationalization program. All this happens against the backdrop of the Catalan issue, an opinion on which also divides the country into separate fractions.

The issue of the status of the region remains to be decided, and this decision will definitely not be liked by someone.

A similar, but more moderate scenario was realized even in calm Finland, where after the last year’s elections the second and third parties, the right-wing True Finns and a slightly more moderate Coalition Party, were left behind the ruling majority. No party as a result of the vote then won even 20% of the vote.

The victorious ruling coalition (and torn away from the True Finns by just one parliamentary seat), the Social Democrats were forced to “sew” from the entire center-left bloc (4-7 places in the elections).

The final result cannot be called ideal – the government has already resigned once, and the opposition has steadily led in opinion polls. According to a February poll by Yle, True Finns remain the most popular party (23%, at least 6% ahead of the pursuers), and the opposition Coalition Party also takes second place.

All the situations described are elusively similar to each other – the “traditional” parties of moderate views lose popularity, on which the left and right movements, which are much bolder in their convictions, feed and grow stronger.

They advocate a course for change, the demand for which is ripening in most European countries, but the radical nature of such a strategy often repels the residual-conservative part of society. Because of this increase in ratings, the “edges” are enough to catch up with moderate competitors, but there are not enough votes for a clear victory.

“Stability has ceased to be a value, since it means further vegetation. If the EU finds the means to accelerate economic development, if it can refresh political philosophy, then everything can stabilize. In the meantime, on the one hand, there are no serious reasons for panic, but there are no solutions to this problem either, ”says Vladimir Bruter.

As a result, the results are almost identical for all elections, when voting leaders gain only about 30% of the vote, which makes them look for coalitions. They cannot compromise with the direct competitors who finished nearby, they are too big contradictions.

As a result, either complex alliances with many small parties, or a forced alliance with ideological opponents. And in both cases – the invariably strong opposition, which has increased the electorate and is confident in its abilities.


This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.

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