Europe is in political turmoil. In ever larger numbers, European voters are turning their backs on the established parties and are flocking to populist or nationalist parties on both the right and the left. This shift is happening all over Europe. Last month, one could see it in Britain, Spain, Poland, Italy and Austria. What all the parties have in common is their dissatisfaction with the policies of the European Union, whether because of immigration, the EU's austerity policies, or its social/ethical agenda.
On Sunday, May 24, the municipal elections in Spain and the presidential elections in Poland were huge successes for new parties and politicians that, until a year ago, hardly any of their present voters had ever even heard of.
In the Spanish capital, Madrid, the anti-austerity party Podemos ["We Can"] became the second biggest party, winning just one seat less than the governing Popular Party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Podemos, a far left party that was established less than two years ago, did extremely well in many other Spanish cities and towns, as well. So did another protest party, Ciudadanos ["Citizens"], not as far left as Podemos. In Barcelona, the capital of the Spanish region Catalonia, the elections were won by a local protest party, led by Ada Colau, who has now become the city's first female mayor. The 41-year old Colau only entered politics last year. She is a far left revolutionary in the mold of Dolores Ibárruri, nicknamed La Pasionaria, a legendary Communist leader in the 1930s' Spanish Civil War.
In Poland, the presidential elections were won by the relatively unknown Andrzej Duda. His victory took the international and national press by surprise. Duda unseated the incumbent president Bronislaw Komorowski, the candidate of the governing Civic Platform, the leader of which, Donald Tusk, had moved on last Autumn from being Polish Prime Minister to become the President of the European Council in Brussels. Duda belongs to the nationalist right. He wants to "re-Polandize" Polish public life and turn Poland again into a nation based on Catholic morality, where there is no place for novelties such as gay marriage. Duda's ideas are close to those of the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, another fierce critic of the social agenda promoted by the European Union from Brussels.
In recent elections in Europe, Andrzej Duda (left), of the nationalist right, won the presidency of Poland. Ada Colau, of the far left, was elected mayor of Barcelona, in Spain. Colau calls for "democratic revolution" all over the south of Europe.
One week later, on May 31, regional elections in Italy and Austria also led to blows for the ruling establishment parties. In Italy, the separatist Northern League, which aims for the independence of the North of Italy, gained huge victories in its northern strongholds. In Venice, the party won more than 50% of the votes. In Tuscany, the left-wing bastion and home province of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, the League managed to win 20%.
Under the leadership of its new Federal Secretary, 42-year old Matteo Salvini, the Northern League has broadened the party's platform from Northern separatism to forceful criticism of Islamic immigration and of the European Union, which Mr Salvini once called "a crime against mankind." Last year, Mr Salvini invited the Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, Europe's most outspoken critic of Islam, to address the League's party conference in Turin.
On May 31, the League for the first time also put forward candidates in southern Italy. It did so by establishing a sister party, called Noi con Salvini ["We with Salvini"]. By broadening his appeal, Salvini is filling the void that the demise of Silvio Berlusconi's alliance had left on the right of Italy's political spectrum.
Meanwhile, Austria witnessed a historic election victory of the nationalist Freedom Party in the regional elections in Styria. The Austrian Freedom Party is led by the flamboyant Heinz-Christian Strache, who basically rebuilt his party from scratch after the departure of Joerg Haider. Strache has broken with the anti-Semitic past of the party. He, too, is a friend of Geert Wilders, who he invited last February to address a party rally in Vienna. In Styria, the Freedom Party leaped from 11% of the vote to 27%, making it almost as big as the Christian Democrats (29%) and the Social Democrats (28%). Immigration was a major issue in the campaign. The Freedom Party warned voters of the prospect of becoming "strangers in their own country."
Earlier last month, on May 7, the British general elections resulted in a triumph for the leftist Scottish nationalists, as well as for the governing Conservative Party of Prime Minister David Cameron, who promised voters a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union. Thanks to this promise, and that Britain never adopted the euro as its currency, Cameron was the only sitting European leader in recent months who was not punished by the voters.
Taking into account the French regional elections of March 29, where the anti-EU and anti-immigrant Front National got over 25% of the popular vote, the Finnish general elections of April 14, where the anti-EU Finns Party became the second-biggest party in the country, and the upcoming general elections in Denmark on June 18, where the anti-EU Danish People's Party is expected to win, it is safe to conclude that Europe is politically in full swing.
The euro project, by which in 2002 the European Union forced a common European currency upon the EU member states without allowing the people a referendum, has resulted in economic failure. Rather than uniting the Europeans in a federal pan-European state, it has led to the peoples of Europe reaffirming their national identities and political traditions.
Europe's impoverishment, resulting from both its economic underperformance and unrestrained immigration, mostly from Islamic countries, has caused its electorates to opt for national identity, nationalism, regionalism, and the chance to express themselves through a referendum on Europe.
While the election results in, say, Spain or Scotland on the one hand, and Poland or Austria on the other hand, can be interpreted as political opposites, with the left winning in Spain and Scotland and the right winning in Poland and Austria, the results are essentially conservative everywhere. They indicate a desire to return to political tradition, which in Spain (especially Catalonia) and Scotland has always been leftist.
Everywhere in Europe, voters have lost confidence in the bureaucrats of the European Union in Brussels and those of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. They want once again to be empowered to decide their own political and economic fate.