Fyodor Lukyanov: European Parliament Elections Results and Their Implications

MEPs don’t call the shots, so any real change in the bloc will emerge from domestic upheavals

While the European Parliament elections have stirred up the political landscape, they won’t bring about any sweeping changes at the EU level. Despite the rise of Euroskeptic forces in several countries, the makeup of the legislative body hasn’t significantly changed. As usual, the key positions in the bloc’s institutions will be distributed among the mainstream – the conservatives (EPP), socialists (S&D) and liberals (Renew).

A key takeaway is that in the two largest EU member states – France and Germany – the incumbent parties no longer enjoy widespread public support. Macron opted not to delay, but to try and immediately reverse the trend by calling snap elections with a three-week campaign. Berlin’s right-wing opposition – the CDU/CSU – also called for new elections, though this is highly unlikely to happen.

Macron is taking a gamble, but he’s banking on the fact that citizens tend to vote differently in European elections compared to national ones. In the former, voting is an opportunity to express dissatisfaction with the authorities without any real risk, as a European’s daily life doesn’t depend on what deputies in Brussels and Strasbourg do. The latter is about electing those who will form the government and whose decisions directly impact their wallets. In national elections, it’s the candidates’ managerial experience that matters, and so-called populists usually lack these skills. Consequently, national election results tend to favor the mainstream. This held true under normal and stable conditions, which are now a distant memory.

Macron placed the Ukrainian issue at the forefront of his campaign for the European Parliament (going so far as to promise direct intervention in the fighting). This didn’t galvanize voters. In Germany, the issue also played a significant role, although it wasn’t central. The CDU, which fared very well, is even more pro-Ukrainian than the Social Democrats. However, the success of the Alternative for Germany and Sarah Wagenknecht’s new party shows that this stance also has its detractors – both forces oppose arming Ukraine.

Will this demonstration of skepticism towards involvement in the Ukrainian conflict by a significant portion of the electorate affect the policies of the EU and its individual members? We venture to say that it will not. Firstly, the modern European establishment (we’re talking about large countries, in smaller ones the situation is more flexible) perceives voter signals in a peculiar way. Not in the sense that they need to change course, but that (a) they haven’t done enough to explain the necessity of this policy, and that (b) they haven’t prevented hostile (Russian) influence. Therefore, they don’t need to change direction, but to continue on the same path with renewed efforts.

However, there’s one important caveat. In both France and (especially) Germany, so-called far-right parties remain virtually isolated; they cannot participate in normal coalition politics. The common accusation is that they play the role of Putin’s ‘fifth column.’ Nevertheless, their level of support has reached a point where it will become impossible to indefinitely marginalize these forces. In Germany, commentators note, the issue will soon reach a critical point – it’s time to either ban the AfD party as “extremist” or to start treating it as a regular political force. So far, they’re leaning towards the former, but no decision has been made. “Normalization” of these parties, as the example of Giorgia Meloni in Italy shows, may lead them towards a mainstream agenda. But this outcome isn’t guaranteed, as it depends on achieving a critical mass.

There’s really no alternative to Western Europe’s current foreign policy course – too much credibility has been invested in it. And the senior comrade across the ocean also supports this current course. So, they must persevere. Fluctuations are possible, but they’re linked (as in the US if Trump becomes president) not to a revision of the fundamentals but to the paralysis of the system in the event of non-systemic forces breaking through to real power. If, for example, Le Pen’s National Movement wins the French elections and takes over government, the ‘cohabitation’ will turn into a series of squabbles at the highest managerial level. It would be difficult to make any decisions. In other words, the alternative to current politics isn’t a different politics, but rather the dysfunction of any politics.

Western European politics is undergoing a structural change, but not yet a change in substance. It can likely only change as a result of breakdowns and upheavals that are anticipated but cannot be predicted.

This article was first published by , translated and edited by the RT team