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This election was not a massive shift to the right

by tyronen Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 05:13:53 AM EST

EUROPEAN ELECTIONS

The meme all over the English-language press, at least, is the "historic drubbing" of the center-left parties.  This is taken as a near-universal trend.

But unless I'm missing something, it's not really what actually happened.  Most media coverage seems to be considering these events as a 'snapshot' and not looking at longer-term trends.

From the diaries - Nomad


The BBC's chart

MEP Seats
VotesMEPs
Party%+/-%Total +/-
EPP 33.4 -1.4 264 -18
Socialists 23.2 -4.1 183 -26
Liberal 11.0 +1.6 84 +5
Green 7.4 +1.3 50 +9
Left 5.3 -0.6 34 -2
UEN 3.4 +1.6 28 +2
Ind/Dem 2.7 -1.8 21 -15
No Group 13.6 +3.4 72 +3.4
0 of 27 countries declared.
indicates that the EPP/ED lost eighteen seats from the adjusted 2004 totals.  Granted, if the British Conservatives had stayed in the coalition that would have been a net gain of 6, but six out of 736 is barely significant.

Consider Germany: the CDU/CSU got 38 percent of the vote to the SPD's 20.  The thing is, in 2004 the CDU/CSU got 45 percent.  They lost seven seats, five of them to the FDP.  How is that a gain for the right?  Nor is this share of the vote that new; they have had a plurality of seats since at least 1994.  Both the two major parties have lost ground to both the FDP and Greens over the elections since then.  The SPD's big year of defeat was 2004, when it sank by nine points, which it failed to win back yesterday.

In the UK, the Conservatives gained only one seat!  Their popular vote went up by a single percentage point.  The UKIP's vote was basically flat since 2004, and even the heralded BNP triumph is a rise from 4.9 to 6.2 percent of the vote - a gain, but far from the end of the world.  It was the Green party that saw the greatest gain in votes, if no seats.

In France, there was indeed an EPP/ED rise and Socialist fall. Even there, the majority of lost Socialist vote went to the Greens.  The EPP/ED appear to have pulled their votes away from the NF and MPF, which between them had 17 percent of the 2004 vote.  It's hard to interpret this as an overall shift to the right.

Similarly in Poland, there is a sharp rise in EPP/ED support - at the expense of even more conservative parties that had been in Ind/Dem or ALDE.  This doesn't count as a shift to the right.

In Italy, I won't even try to delve down into the individual parties - but from the summary results, I see only a moderate shift rightwards, with Left and Green votes going to the EPP, UEN, and Liberal coalitions.

A similar story in Spain - a relatively small loss from the PES to the ALDE and EPP/ED.

I could be wrong on this, not being all that familiar with the intricacies of party politics in each country.  But still - it should be hard to draw a universal trend across 27 countries, but the media are doing it anyway.  Incorrectly.

Display:
Thank you, counter meme's welcomed.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 03:08:47 PM EST
but thevotes for the left are often split in 2 (socialists, greens) or 3 (harder left) while the right has tended to be more unified.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 03:56:18 PM EST
... within the right.

If in most countries at the same time there were more the Socialist etc. votes heading to the Green etc. group, it would be at the same time as a splintering of vote within the left.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 01:08:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Seconded.

the shift,e xcept in France, was a small shift to the right....

Another way to look at it... Italy is crazy, labor got humiliated and the french and German right-wing parties have a strong social component.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 04:07:48 PM EST
there was no shift right in France - the right has one of its weakets totals - it's just that opposition is split between weakened socialists, green shoots and various assorted leftier groups, not to mention the centrist galaxy around Bayrou.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 04:27:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome a Paris:
the centrist galaxy around Bayrou.

A galaxy? How about a two star system? (at best)
by Bernard (bernard) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 05:06:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the galaxy has a single point (a black hole?) at its center...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 05:33:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is the amazing stuff. With a crisis like this, and the right got more or less the same number of votes. That is a shift from other countries governed by the left.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 06:20:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I doubt MoDem MEPs will not end up siding with the center-right on most issues. Any way last time around Bayrou was part of the presidential majority, and if you add the nationalists to that, there actually is a net gain of 4 seats for the right and center-right.

If you keep Bayrou out of it, this election was a draw,  33 / 33.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 09:41:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
hey kcurie, where are you located these days?
by MarekNYC on Wed Jun 10th, 2009 at 05:56:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've made a tentative look at the numbers as they stand so far, both from the official website and from the breakdown at ET.

In percentages of power distribution, the Greens gained, PES lost dramatically, the EPP more or less keeps stable. But: the PES lost, and ALDE also - and we get back a whole bunch of unaffiliated, but dominantly nationalist, Non-Inscrits.

While trends per country differ, the upshot is that eurosceptic, nationalistic parties are eating up the majority of PES and ALDE votes in Brussels. The gains for the Greens and the GUE-NGL do not compensate enough.

And that's not good.

by Nomad on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 05:58:52 PM EST
That depends.

That PES takes a drubbing is frankly no great loss. In many ways we'd be better off without an EPP-lite staffing posts that should go to leftists with wingnuts like Phony Tony and third-wayers like Prodi.

The impact of the ALDE loss depends on whether it's from ALDE-sane or ALDE-lunatic. If it's from ALDE-sane, it's no great loss and if it's from ALDE-lunatic, it's great news.

What does the shift look like if you count PES as a right-wing group?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 06:23:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hypothetically when I consider PES right-wing, a right-wing group has just lost to what looks like more rabidly eurosceptic, xenophobic far-right seats so far operating outside any parliamentary group.

It'll need some analyzing on the Non-Inscrits if this hunch fits, but if it fits, the only plus side I see so far is that the nationalists haven't organised themselves in one voting bloc.

If you're talking about the long run and that the PES getting a drubbing may finally instill the PES parties to get their act together, I can see that positively...

by Nomad on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 04:20:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A lot of the Non-Inscrits will end up in the Independence and Democracy group, and the Tories will create a Eurosceptic group with the Czech ODS, the Polish PiS and a few others. Remember the NI contains the remnants of the racist/xenophobic parliamentary group which imploded in 2008. With the BNP, the UKIP and Wilders' PVV, they can work wonders.

By the way, the Czech ODS and the Polish PiS are the parties of the two member state Presidents who are still holding out on ratifying the Lisbon Treaty.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buiter

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 04:30:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's exactly what I fear what will happen.

I can't see a boost for the ID plus an additional far-right, eurosceptic party any differently than a significant gain for the right flank in the EP. And their gains are a lot bigger than those for the Greens+EUL/NGL.

I've taken the results we've been using, and the current tally is a +5.6% gain for a combined ID+UEN+Conservatives+ODS+NonInscrits.

That's almost completely the PES loss in percentages.

by Nomad on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 04:54:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the extreme right could not reliably be counted in the total for the right (and neither could its voters) - they behave rather differently in that respect to a large chunk of the extreme left, which is open to joining coalition governments, and reliably votes for the center-left when required. So what matters is the relative weights of left and right excluding the extreme right.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 05:30:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But now you're talking how politics works - I'm mainly talking about how it looks from the outside.

However, if we scale left and right, cut the extreme right off, I don't think it looks particularly good for the left bloc either. Unless EPP and ALDE have considerable leftish factions.

by Nomad on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 05:45:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How big is the Social-Liberal wing of ALDE this time around?

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buiter
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 06:05:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The non-inscrits consist of a large variety of parties, though. Let's tabulate this (from the European Parliament Site which has 93 non-inscrits):

Far-right

  • АТАКА (BG) 2 seats
  • Vlaams Belang (BE) 2 seats (* the BBC gives 1 more seat to the non-inscrits than the EP site, don't know if that's supposed to be for VB or Dedecker)
  • Front National (FR) 3 seats
  • Jobbik (HU) 3 seats
  • FPÖ (AT) 2 seats
  • Partidul România Mare (RO) 3 seats
  • True Finns (FI) 1 seat
  • British National Party (UK) 2 seats

Hard Right / Populist Right
  • Lijst Dedecker (BE) 1 seat
  • Saskaņas Centrs (LV) 2 seats
  • PVV (NL) 4 seats
  • Ľudová strana (SK) 1 seat (* the BBC gives 1 more seat to non-inscrits, due to not counting Slovenská národná strana among the UEN; wiki also does not count them among UEN - SNS seems to be further to the right still)
  • Democratic Unionist Party (UK) 1 seat (* the BBC gives 1 more seat to non-inscrits, this is probably due to not counting Sinn Fein among GUE/NGL)

Euroconservative Party
  • ODS (CZ) 9 seats
  • Conservative Party (UK) 25 seats

Centre-right
  • Lietuvos lenkų rinkimų akcija (LT) 1 seat (* AKA Akcja Wyborcza Polaków na Litwie)
  • Ulster Unionist Party (UK) 1 seat

Right-ish / Centrist Independents
  • Indrek Tarand (EE) 1 seat
  • Liste Dr. Martin (AT) 3 seats

Left(-ish)
  • Union, Progresso y Democracia (SP) 1 seat (* the BBC groups these either among ALDE or GUE/NGL, or does not give them a seat)
  • Alliance des Outre-mers (FR) 1 seat
  • Partito Democratico (IT) 22 seats (* the BBC groups these among the PES)
  • Dimokratiko Komma (CY) 1 seat (* the BBC groups these among ALDE, but according to wiki they will join the PES)
  • Piratpartiet (SE) 1 seat (* will join the Greens-EFA according to DoDo)
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 07:09:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The BBC counts 2 non-inscrits more for Romania, which is due to not counting the UMDR (Hungarian ethnic party) among the EPP-ED (probably).

The BBC also counts 1 non-inscrit more for Finland, which is due to not counting the Christian Democrats among the EPP-ED (probably).

The BBC counts 3 non-inscrits less for Austria, which is due to counting Hans-Peter Martin among IND-Dem (which seems to be wrong).

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 07:41:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  • Romania: nope, the issue is with two individuals. One is the President"s daughter, who runs independent from her EPP member party -- but whom we should count there. The other is László Tőkés, the ethnic Hungarian leader who left RMDSz/UDMR and ran as independent in 2007. Then, his accession into the EPP was prevented by ethnic-Romanian Romanian EPP members, and he ultimately joined the Greens (heh). But now, he ran on a joint list with RMDSz/UDMR again, thus his entry into the EPP faction can't be vetoed.

  • The BBC has some other errors: for Latvia, they count PS as Socialist rather than UEN.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 07:54:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nitpicks:

  • SNS/Slovakia is clear far-right. HZDS was populist left; presently, I am not sure they can even be placed.

  • Thanks for pointing me back to the Wiki on DI.KO; I tried to track this down to no avail, and Wiki did not have that line when I looked.

  • I misremembered about Piratpartiet: it's nlot decided yet, ALDE is the other option.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 07:46:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wikipedia also has the best table.

If we continue with this exercise, wiki has the 3 parties of the left at 247 seats, which is a net loss of 27 seats (adjusted for the lower number of seats). If on an optimistic scenario we add the UPyD, Di.Ko and Piratpartiet, we have the left at 250 with a net loss of 24 seats.

Adding the Italian PD would put the left at 271, but their leave has already been internalised in the adjusted number.

ALDE, which can count as the centre for practical purposes and Graham Watson's idea of being the Parliament's kingmaker, has 83 seats, which is an adjusted loss of 5 seats.

The EPP-ED group has 265 seats, which is an adjusted gain of 21 seats, while the skeptics and nationalists have an adjusted loss of 13 seats.

The Euroconservative party has 39 to 50 seats (depending upon whether PiS and the UUP join in), of which the higher number should be an adjusted gain of 10-11 seats.

As for working majorities: the skeptics and the nationalists and assorted right-wing factions are irrelevant for decisions in the parliament; the EPP-ED's only use for them is as cover for stalling and tacking right, but they probably don't even need that considering the new Euroconservative party.

Positions between the EPP-ED and Euroconservatives are different on a lot of issues, the same goes for ALDE. The three groups could have a comforable working majority of 398 seats (29 seat majority) - but I think the differences on most issues are too large. The largest coalition is EPP-ED / PES / ALDE which would be at 510-533 seats. That's large enough to lose half of one of the parties at some votes.

As the EPP-ED and PES continue to share a decent majority, my guess is that they will continue sharing the Presidency as well, unless Graham Watson can make them an offer they can't refuse.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 08:33:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Euroconservative party has 39 to 50 seats (depending upon whether PiS and the UUP join in), of which the higher number should be an adjusted gain of 10-11 seats.

You mixed up PiS and ODS; ODS+Tories would be 34; but UUP ran a de facto joint list with the Tories, thus they are default members (making 35 certain seats).

BTW, won't the ED wing of the EPP-ED dissolve? The only remaining member is Italy's Pensioners' Party, with zero MEPs.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 11:09:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're right. I don't know if the UUP are bound to join in, but they probably will.

As for the ED, you're right about that as well. I wonder what will happen to ELDR/ALDE, for that matter. The EFA will live on.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 11:24:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The North Ireland MEP formally belongs to the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists - New Force. So, again, the UUP is in by default (if I read the last sentence below right).

Movement for European Reform - Wikipedia

A second early partner party (albeit one that would not count towards meeting the seven state threshold) was the Ulster Unionist Party. Leader Sir Reg Empey publicly indicated support for the new group, and suggested that the UUP may also move from the ED to an MER group after the 2009 election.[20] It is unclear whether the UUP, which has 1 MEP, will formalise a relationship with MER before then. The UUP has since created a formal electoral pact with the British Conservative Party, meaning any UUP MEPs elected will take the Conservative whip in the UK Parliament.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 12:57:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Doesn't the EC need parties from more countries to form a group?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 03:10:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, seven -- I realised this recently too.

With PiS, Cameron would have only three. I read on Wikipedia yesterday that he also vooed the Bulgarian ex-Tsar's party, but the EPP got it to fall back into the line by threatening to fire them.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jun 10th, 2009 at 02:33:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I'm talking about the PES parties getting wiped out and replaced as leaders of the left-wing block by the Green parties. PES is not coming back on stage as a battleworthy weapon capable of prosecuting a class war upon their enemies. They are too firmly wedded to the notion that politics is a game for gentlemen in which reasonable people can argue in good faith to find reasonable compromises. But that only works in a time of aggregate global increase in industrial production, which is basically not gonna happen in this century.

So the faster we can usher PES off the political stage, the better. Only time will tell whether the Greens will Torify upon taking over a leadership role - but PES already has Torified, and I don't think that's responsive to treatment.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 04:38:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Diary.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buiter
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 04:44:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And of course, that only goes for the Schröderite wing of PES. The Bliarite wing of PES are substantially indistinguishable from Wolfgang "Stasi 2.0" Scheuble.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 04:44:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So you actually think the PES should've been hit harder?

The media would not stop with "Losing Socialists" headlines. Prodigious fuel for the FT pundits.

by Nomad on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 04:59:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Things can only get better after they have gotten much, much, worse, it seems.

And the Social Democrats have nobody to blame but themselves.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buiter

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 05:04:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not that they won't try, mind you...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 05:30:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The commercial media will not stop with their "losing socialist" headlines until we cut Murdoch's balls off, put them on a necklace, tie that necklace around his wrists and parade him around Brandenburger Tor. And maybe not even then. The socialists will have to start winning despite the way we're treated in media, and that process starts by assuming as a given that we can't count on winning because of the way the media treat us. And PES seems to be institutionally incapable of that, whereas the Greens and the socialists have hands-on experience of this state of affairs within the living memory of their party cadres.

Whether PES should be wiped out in one fell swoop is another matter. If there is a Left/Green cadre waiting in the wings to mop up the remains and hit the ground running, I can see no benefit to having PES around for another election cycle. But if the left group does not have a leadership ready to take over, a gradual decline would give us time to build up experienced cadres. Of course, it can't be too gradual either, because we have a couple of critical time constraints (global warming, the collapse of American hegemony, various resource constraints, and in the medium term, our neighbours will be unifying into regional political entities in their own right).

Of course, it would be greatly preferable if the PES loss went to the Greens instead of the neofascists, but if half the PES is de facto EPP anyway, and half the EPP is in favour of a police state... Well, suffice is to say that the shift is much more gradual than it looks like from the raw numbers.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 05:27:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
because the greeens are actually large enough to provide a viable alternative - or when the socialists and greens build up a serious alliance with power sharing (and programme building) rules.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 05:31:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But that won't happen as long as PES still views ALDE and EPP as colleagues rather than as enemies. A completely different mindset is required, comparable to transforming a spoiled poodle into a guard dog capable of telling friend from foe and putting up a good fight. It's not impossible in principle, and I would be very happy if it actually happened. But I'm not placing any expensive bets on it.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 05:36:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Le Monde reports today that things are heating up around Borroso's confirmation, and it would seem that some are gearing up for a fight.

Interestingly, the preoccupation of the French and German governments (to ensure that Lisbon enters in force this year) makes it a bit less likely that Barroso sails through, as Lisbon requires confirmation by an absolute majority of the Parliament, and not just a simple majority - and the EPP cannot easily find an absolute majority, not without the PES, anyway.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 05:50:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's why Barroso wants to be confirmed as soon as possible without waiting for his term to be up, in the Autumn.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buiter
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 06:01:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
JakeS:
But that won't happen as long as PES still views ALDE and EPP as colleagues rather than as enemies.
The exchange of open letters between the PES and the ELDR is telling in this respect. The PES was more concerned about the ELDR's challenge for 2nd place than about vying for first place.

The EPP is now suggesting a "grand coalition" between EPP, PES and ALDE.

The ALDE's leadership is suggesting "a centre-right alliance" with the EPP.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buiter

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 06:04:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
is that while getting rid of the Blairists would be a good thing, I doubt you can go anywhere without the likes of Prodi or Jospin. Maybe they behave too much like centrists at times, butthat's because the right won the ideological debate for a long while. Now, with firm pressure from the rest of the left, the socialists can move somewhet left again, and thus they are needed.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 05:44:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Prodi or Jospin Blairites?

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buiter
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 06:06:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know about Jospin, but Prodi has fairly consistently underwhelmed me. I'm sure he's a competent bureaucrat, but he's not a fighter, nevermind a general.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 06:11:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and that's precisely my point.

Blair pulled Labout to the right.
Jospin and Prodi stayed in the middle of a party that had, overall, drifted right. If you can revers the drift, such leaders will be, naturally, more to the left, in absolute position, by targettign the center of their coalition.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 08:13:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You do have a point, but a significant party losing five seats - and giving two of them to racist nationalists - isn't a small thing. Especially considering the relative stability of EU voting blocs.

BBC NEWS | European Election 2009 | UK Results

Conservative 4,198,394  27.7  (+1.0)  25 +1
UK Independence Party 2,498,226  16.5  (+0.3) 13 +1
Labour 2,381,760  15.7  (-6.9) 13 -5
Liberal Democrats 2,080,613  13.7  (-1.2) 11 +1
Green Party 1,303,745   8.6  (+2.4) 2 0
British National Party 943,598  6.2  (+1.3) 2 +2

Since only around a third of the population voted, this suggests that most people don't care about the EU elections, and don't feel any need to make an opinion felt.

That's as damning a verdict as the nominal rightward shift.

BBC NEWS | Election 2009 | Councils A-Z

Conservative 30 +7 1531 +244
Liberal Democrat 1 -1 484 -2
Labour 0 -4 178 -291
Independents 0 0 97 +6
Green 0 0 18 +8
Residents Association 0 0 9 +2
UK Independence Party 0 0 7 +7
Mebyon Kernow 0 0 3 0
British National Party 0 0 3 +3

There's certainly an element of the parochial British press generalising a local narrative, and what might look like a concerted media campaign across the EU to reinforce that.

But still - the shift in support from Labour is very real here. And in Europe it also means that there's less chance of a unified leftward pushback against whatever silliness the conservatives try to push through.

Also, looking at the Overton window, the 'socialists' are all more aligned with neoliberal centre-right ideals than with aggressive leftism.

So the seats are really split between a large right-centre bloc and a smaller centre/centre-right bloc - not between the centre right and centre left.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 06:46:00 PM EST
From what I understand, the European Parliament can only vote up or down on bills presented by the European Commission; it can't initiate bills of its own; correct?  Also the EC is appointed by the heads of state of the member countries, and thus doesn't have to assemble a working majority in the legislative branch the way a national government has to.

If that's the case, I can see why turnout would be low; this is a legislative body with too little real power to be worth voting for.

Logically, the EC should be formed from the ranks of the MEPs themselves, just like a national cabinet.  Was this in the Lisbon Treaty or other recent attempts at reform?

by tyronen on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 07:48:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... in place, in the Australian system of a proportionally elected Senate as a House of Review ...

... but no House of Representatives as of yet, so no cabinet, no prime minister ... no "government of the day".


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 01:12:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Also the EC is appointed by the heads of state of the member countries, and thus doesn't have to assemble a working majority in the legislative branch the way a national government has to.

That is not entirely correct - the Parliament must approve the EC's choice of President of the COmmission, and then in a separate vote, the President's choice of College of Commissioners.

Barroso didn't have an easy time in 2004.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buiter

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 02:09:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
but with the European Commission being appointed by the states (essentially ambassadors), the EU may resemble more the toothless UN than a supranational governing body.

I have wondered whether this will turn out to be a fatal flaw.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 10:39:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The EU is not a 'body' in that sense but the Commission and European Parliament are bodies of the EU with both supranational and intergovernmental elements, whereas the Council is mainly but not perfectly intergovernmental.

Commissioners are formally required to serve the Community and not their own countries, however, in practice this is difficult, especially if a Commissioner wants to serve more than one term.

As for flaws, the way the EU's bodies have evolved is shaped by a history of political contention, in that sense it is odd to speak of flaws in the sense of design flaws. There are few unconsciously introduced flaws, but many imperfections, depending upon your political point of view, that have flow out of political compromise.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 11:21:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
has sole power to introduce new EU-wide legislation. This ensures that this will never be a fully compliant body: it has leverage.

And if it gets a politically strong leader like Delors, it can push things rather massively, something the UN cannot do under existing rules.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 12:12:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you remember the US Congress elections in 2002, the media played awe of the "powerful" shift in the US Senate control, based on just a few seat shifts in both houses. It is enought to read comedians. Jon Stuart's Daily Show was of course hilarious.

Of course, it was Republicans "crushing" through in 2002. Now compare that with the coverage of an "ordinary" backslash in 2008, where the Democrats almost won a filibuster-proof Senate and... can you remind me what special happened in the House of Representatives?

The mainstream media is skewing successes of political parties no less than the local papers analyzing sport teams. And they have only one kind of political favorites. Worse yet, the left parties look comfortable playing fools.  

by das monde on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 12:31:55 AM EST
AFAIR, in the House of Representatives, the clear majority established in 2006 which the press in the lead-up to 2008 were talking about in terms of how much ground the Republicans could win back ... became an even strong majority, substantially reducing the institutional clout of the centre-right "Blue Dog" Democrats.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 01:20:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
[ET Moderation Technology™]

Chart added to diary.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buiter

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 05:14:29 AM EST
It wouldn't be ET if there wasn't a chart, now would it?  :)

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire
by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 10:51:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"I could be wrong on this, not being all that familiar with the intricacies of party politics"

You're probably right and the shift to the right is indeed quite moderate, sometimes even non-existent. There could be the question of situating the ALDE parties and the 90 (?) undecided but even so.
What I think happened is that the Overton Window was moved to the left, mainly because of the financial crisis. The titles in the european press about the right progressing in times of crisis go in this direction. Expectations might have been more to the left, at least intuitively, hence the Right maintaining its position looks like such a great victory.

Just my 2 pences.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)

by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 09:31:29 AM EST
the shift to the right is indeed quite moderate, sometimes even non-existent

national parties here?

Only ~10% of the EP seat distribution changed party this election, so I agree that the change is quite subtle - and not as dramatic as some of the press make it out to be. Although I do maintain that the right has made gains, and disagree with you that it has kept stable. How this will work out practically in parliament remains to be seen, also pending on the dissolution or formation of parliamentary groups.

It would be worthwhile to scrutinise how the new ALDE group looks like.

by Nomad on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 10:14:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To me it looks like most oftenly shifts of seats occured between parties of the same side, eg. from PS to the Greens in France, from the CDU/CSU to the FDP in Germany, from Berlusconi to Bossi in Italy etc. The noticeable exception being Britain.
OTOH somehow I don't think the right/left divisions to be so clear in the EP. Barroso is the best example. A part of the PES supports him, while others, and the greens, don't. On the right side Merkel does, why Sarkozy notoriously doesn't. And there were cases when all German MEPs voted what the Chancellor told them to, regardless of their colour. So well. I wonder how relevant the colour is after all.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 12:58:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Left-right labels are quickly misnomers in a the varied hodgepodge of the EP, true. Let's rephrase: I group populist far-right, eurosceptic, nationalist parties as the parties I don't want to expand.

from PS to the Greens in France, from the CDU/CSU to the FDP in Germany, from Berlusconi to Bossi in Italy etc. The noticeable exception being Britain.

We'd need comparison per country for that to see if that's indeed the case for national parties. It's only half the truth for the Netherlands (Labour lost 4, Greens gained only 1, while the eurosceptic far-right of Wilders gained 4 out of nothing).

by Nomad on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 05:00:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems to be the case also for Spain and Belgium. For the Netherlands one could say the PVV won from the CDA and the VVD, while the PvdA lost to D66 and Greens. There should also be some other party which was present in 2007 and is absent now, btw: NL has 2 less seats today than 2 years ago.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! (Martin Luther King)
by ValentinD (walentijn arobase free spot frança) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 07:05:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There should also be some other party which was present in 2007 and is absent now

If you mean 2004, there was Europa Transparant which then got 2 seats and joined the Greens, but the party has disintegrated in due course and did not participate this year. So it was a free for all for the traditional parties.

by Nomad on Wed Jun 10th, 2009 at 05:03:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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