European Elections a Turning Point for Europe?
The municipal elections in France resulted in a huge victory for the Front National of Marine Le Pen. For the first time since 1995, France will again have FN mayors. Marine Le Pen also succeeded in maneuvering her party into pole position for the European elections on May 25th. France has 74 seats in the European Parliament. FN is expected to win up to 20 or more.
Marine Le Pen is one of Europe's greatest political talents. Her strategy to rid the party, which she inherited from her anti-Semitic father, from most of its extreme-right elements is paying off. While Le Pen's international policies are dangerously flawed and her economic proposals border on socialist protectionism, she has succeeded in turning the FN into an acceptable alternative for millions of ordinary Frenchmen from the Left as well as the Right.
Le Pen has also cleverly avoided making any political mistakes. She did not give in to provocations of political opponents and she did not fall into the trap of giving her enemies opportunities to reinforce hostile perceptions about her party.
The result is that France's political system is no longer a two-party system dominated by the Socialist PS of current president François Hollande and the Conservative UMP of former president Nicolas Sarkozy. With the Front National, a third player of equal status has emerged. Moreover, as the anger of the voters at the two established parties is growing, Le Pen's momentum is far from over.
An almost similar situation is occurring in Britain. Nigel Farage's United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) has established itself as a strong contender for power in a country whose political system was long dominated by only two parties, Labour and the Conservatives. In Britain, as in France, voters have evidently become disillusioned with a political establishment responsible for open-borders policies that have led to mass immigration, Islamization and the transfer of national sovereignty to supranational organizations such as the European Union in Brussels. UKIP, too, is expected to do extremely well in May, winning up to 20 or more of the 73 British seats in Brussels.
While UKIP and the FN are entirely different parties, with UKIP deeply rooted in an economically libertarian tradition and with Nigel Farage opposing any alliance with Marine Le Pen's party as long as anti-Semites (read: Marine's father, FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen and his friend Bruno Gollnisch) still have a place in the FN, both parties owe their current electoral success to the growing opposition of a large segment of their countries' indigenous population to immigration, Islamization and the loss of national identity and sovereignty.
There are also similarities between Mr. Farage and Ms. Le Pen. They are both members of the European Parliament, the EU parliament based in Brussels. And they are both using their position in Brussels as a platform from which to launch themselves into national politics.
The electoral systems in France and Britain make it extremely difficult for new parties to establish themselves in the national legislative bodies. The European Parliament, however, is elected according to proportional representation, which allows relatively easy access to political newcomers. The same is true in Germany, where a newly established party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), did not manage to win any seats in the national parliament during last September's general elections, despite gaining 4.7% of the national vote. Only parties that receive 5% of the votes are eligible for seats in the German Bundestag. For the European elections, however, this 5% hurdle does not exist. It suffices that a party win slightly over 1% of the national vote for it to gain one of the 96 German seats in the European Parliament in Brussels. AfD is currently polling over 7% of the vote and is expected to send at least six members to the European Parliament.
Marine Le Pen's political ambitions are clearly national. There is no doubt that she would rather exchange her seat in the European Parliament for one in the French Assemblée Nationale. She was her party's candidate in the French presidential elections in 2012 and apparently wants to run again in 2017. She also hopes to become the group leader of a substantial number of FN parliamentarians in the Assemblée Nationale after the next general elections. The FN currently holds only two of the 577 seats in the French parliament, despite having won 14% of the votes. If the FN were to double its votes, as some polls now predict, a landslide might occur in the National Assembly, with up to 100 FN members entering the French parliament.
So, ironically, while Brussels tries to usurp ever more power from the national parliaments, it offers opportunities for politicians standing for the defense of national sovereignty, to force their way into national parliaments where they can oppose the Brussels' power grab.
Nigel Farage, too, would like to swap Brussels for the House of Commons in Westminster. He has already announced that he will stand as a candidate in next year's general elections, which, he hopes, would mark the national breakthrough of UKIP. "Just imagine how much difference we could make with MPs in Westminster!" he wrote in a column about the need to control immigration. AfD leader Bernd Lucke will also use the Brussels platform as a launching pad to a Bundestag seat at the next German general elections.
It looks as if the Europeans have finally had enough of mass immigration, Islamization and transferring national sovereignty to Brussels. In May, they will make their voices heard. And soon, these voices will be heard in the national parliaments, too.
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