Major socio-political changes are neither planned nor premeditated. They are usually triggered by unforeseen circumstantial mistakes, and when these occur it is already too late.
The May 2019 European elections may prove catalytic to future political changes in Europe. History is full of ironies and the irony in this case is that the European Union after more than half a century of progress, might take a new direction because of a scheduled formal event which has in the past been of secondary political importance.
The European Parliament, is unfortunately seen and treated by some citizens, political party leaders, and even members themselves as an EU institution of rather decorative nature. There are those that work – striving to make Europe better, and fighting for a better future for their constituents – and these hopefully make up the majority. But there are others who have been sent to Brussels either as a reward, a gift, a parking spot, or just to be out of someone’s way in the national political scene.
The political landscape forming ahead of the May elections in mind, it is politically naïve to think in conventional political terms as it is not the “left” which confronts the “establishment”. It is the “old”, that is right, left and center all together, against the “new”, which encompasses everybody not participating in the making, that feels disenfranchised and betrayed, by the status quo.
The “new” reflects the “main street” and includes the poor and the neo-poor, pensioners who are too old to assert their lost rights, jobless and former middle-classers who under the ever-growing state regulatory intervention lost their small businesses and became low-salary employees, workers or unemployed collecting social security, students and pseudointellectuals omni-present in every anomaly, ethnic homeless and all kinds of sans-culottes thriving in the margins of our democratic societies.
The wide-spread argument that the “new” is heterogeneous, diverse and deeply divided, and thus can never unite no matter how big it will become, is good only for high-society salons.
Power corrupts. But power also unites.
Déjà vu, and most recently in Italy where the quasi anarcho-communist M5S (Movimento Cinque Stelle) governs since 2018 together with the perceived as quasi fascist, Lega Nord of Matteo Salvini. And that was only the beginning. Polls and snap local election results in Italy indicate a coming landslide victory for Lega.
The forthcoming European elections are assuming a much bigger significance they have had in the past. The traditional political parties are giving to this election the character of a referendum for the future of the European Union and this is politically wrong. Very wrong. Firstly, because traditional political powers may suffer significant losses and secondly, because nobody asked for or wants a referendum.
Indeed, if traditional parties prevail, it will mean nothing at all. Anti-systemic forces will quietly continue to grow in the backdrop. On the contrary, if traditional parties suffer a loss, which is not to be excluded, that will be catastrophic for the European Union. That is why traditional political parties must go into this election with a low profile and treat the event without fanfare, as if it is not of such grand political significance.
After all, though the European Parliament is democratically elected, it is not the prime European political institution. Too often it is treated as a luxury parking place where certain ruling politicians in Member States limit their opponents in a golden cage, far from the national making. This practice must be completely eradicated if we are to have a Parliament that enjoys the trust of its citizens. It should be reminded that the European Parliament, is the only Parliament in the western world, which although directly elected by the people of Europe, has no right to introduce legislation!
Indeed, this election is becoming of prime political importance for the future of Europe. The fact that the European election will not put in (direct) jeopardy national governments in Member States corrodes the prospects further. Indeed voters, being aware that they will not upset with their vote national political equilibria, will take the occasion to “punish” traditional parties, which they feel have “betrayed” them in various ways.
Under the circumstances, it is worth to take notice of the anti-establishment arguments that will influence the voting attitude of Europeans, which include,
– Permanent austerity
– The depletion of the middle-class and the rise of the far-right, as a result of prolonged austerity and overregulation.
– Islamophobia and associated terrorism
– Wide-spread corruption
– The growing unfriendly attitude of citizens towards civil servants
- The emergence of self-organized (at least at birth) of contesting citizens’ groups such as the Gilets Jaunes in France and the Ciudadanos in Catalonia which develop into new political powers outside the ordinary spectrum.
– The opportunistic surfacing from the mainstream political establishment of erratic leaders, like Viktor Orban, who if wrongly confronted and isolated may become Eurosceptic leaders with wider appeal, etc., etc., etc.
Populist or not, at this point it is irrelevant. These are arguments, without popularly accepted valid counter-arguments, that will influence the upcoming European elections, and which may trigger the biggest change in post war European history.
The simple question of the forward-thinking ruling elite is how to avoid the change and how to maintain the economic and political status quo. The reply is equally simple: Ultimately, there is no way.
At this forthcoming potential turning point of our democratic civilization, it seems one realistic option is left. Conceptualization of the magnitude of the problem, intelligent and realistic management of the transition and damage control.