Europeans Rebuke the European Union, Shocking the System

Although this weekend’s European Parliamentary election results might not have been completely surprising, they’re a shock to Europe’s system. 

Parties that are “euroskeptic” notched their best results to date in polls continent-wide. This doesn’t mean Europeans want the European Union, but it does signal they desire an EU that better serves them. 

Voters across the 27-bloc country elected 720 members of the European Parliament. While votes continue to be tallied, it’s clear parties of the right have performed exceptionally well. 

The European People’s Party is likely the biggest winner. It is an EU-level coalition of national moderate-right parties like Spain’s Popular Party and Germany’s Christian Democratic Union. The EPP is on track to form a plurality in the incoming parliament, just like in the last.

The other winners are the mishmash of politicians and parties frequently (and often misleadingly) described as populist or far right. The star of this show is France’s Marine Le Pen. Her National Rally won almost one-third of the vote, more than the combined share of the Socialist Party’s coalition and President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance. The routing led Macron to call for a snap legislative election, which could end with him governing alongside a majority of Le Pen’s party in the parliament.

The result is triggering the typical hyperventilation that wins for parties and heralds the march of fascists in the streets. Voters in Europe are much too smart for that. 

The right-wing parties won by moving closer to the center on several issues. Le Pen no longer vocally opposes the euro currency. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of Italy, another politician whose party is predicted to fare well at the European level, has morphed into a centrist leader since taking office, including supporting Ukraine.

Parties that did not make the shift, like Alternative for Germany (scarred by recent scandals about its leaders’ alleged Nazi sympathies), failed to gain as much ground as peers who did. Dutch voters preferred center-left Geert Wilder’s party only narrowly after giving the quintessential populist a significant victory last November — a sign they intend to impose moderation on him.

Voters desire a European Union that solves urgent issues. Immigration was a central issue in the campaign. Europe hasn’t figured out how to manage the millions of migrants former German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed in 2015 or the several million who have arrived since. Voters are furious at a bureaucracy that seems frozen in the crisis and a legal system that makes it almost impossible to deport illegal immigrants.

Voters are growing increasingly weary of flights of fancy of virtue-signaling like net-zero carbon emissions at the expense of stalling economies or soaring energy prices. Green parties were among the chief losers this weekend. Belgium had already begun to dial back some of its most rigorous climate commitments as it saw the electoral sweep coming in recent months.

Now, the newly victorious politicians and parties must deliver. Some, like Meloni, will be able to appoint new European Commission members to oversee the bureaucracy. The new parliament will be given a vote on the new leader of the commission, a post currently held by Ursula von der Leyen, and anticipate the policy negotiating over the appointment to signal their level of savvy. Governing has not always been a cheerful experience for the insurgent parties.

This all sounds like everyday democratic politics instead of the descent into fascism imagined by alarmist left elites. If that seems unusual for the EU, it’s more reason the EU deserves the rebuke voters have given.