The Spark July 2009
The March edition of The Spark carried a report of some inspiring class struggles by workers across Europe. Regrettably, that resistance has found very little political expression in the recent elections for the European Parliament. Support for far-right parties has surged, against a backdrop of the lowest ever turnout for a Euro-election, with just 43% bothering to vote.
BRITAIN: Two members of the racist British National Party (BNP) - which restricts its membership to British “Indigenous Caucasians” - were elected to the Parliament. BNP führer Nick Griffin was forced to abandon his media conference outside Parliament in London after being jeered and pelted with eggs by anti-fascist protesters. The right-wing nationalist United Kingdom Independence Party beat the beleaguered ruling Labour Party into third place, capitalising on voter rage at an expenses scandal in the British Parliament.
The largest centre-right grouping in the Euro-Parliament will be transformed by the departure of Britain’s Conservatives, who say they will form a new anti-federalist alliance with other right-wing parties, mostly from eastern Europe.
FRANCE: The Socialist Party’s vote fell to just 16.6 per cent, a dramatic reversal of their previous Euro-election result of 29 per cent in 2004.
The recently formed New Anti-Capitalist Party of Olivier Besancenot only just fell short of the five percent minimum necessary for representation in the European parliament, polling 4.8 percent.
GERMANY: The Social Democratic Party suffered its worst ever result with just 21% of the vote, a damning verdict by its supporters on its coalition with the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) led by Angela Merkel. Although taking first place, the CDU vote still fell compared with the Euro-elections in 2004, losing ground to the more stridently pro-business Free Democratic Party.
ITALY: In a similar tactic to his French conservative counterpart Sarkozy, President Silvio Berlusconi and his conservative Party of Freedom found a winning formula by mixing demagogic promises about protecting workers with anti-immigrant rhetoric. However Berlusconi’s vote of 35% was still well short of the 45% he had predicted.
NETHERLANDS: A populist party which vows to ban the Koran and close the European Parliament, picked up four seats with 17% of the vote, coming second only to the ruling conservative Christian Democrats.
SWEDEN: In a surprise result, The Pirate Party, which aims to legalise internet file-sharing and protect people’s privacy on the net, won one of Sweden’s 18 seats in the European parliament.
IRELAND: Local government elections were run at the same time as the European elections, and they threw up some encouraging results. A groundswell of anger at the Irish state bailing out banks, construction firms and developers, while simultaneously cutting welfare rates and public services had manifested itself at various intervals over the preceding year.
The ruling Fianna Fáil party were the big losers of the election. Support for the party fell to the lowest level since its formation, garnering just 25 per cent of the vote. The Green Party’s decision to enter coalition with the populist Fianna Fáil and its abandonment of a range of core policies sealed its fate: the party was decimated. It lost all of its council seats in Dublin, and is left with no representation on any of the four local authorities.
Meanwhile the small hard left parties made some significant gains. The Socialist Workers Party, in the form of the People Before Profit Alliance, made an electoral breakthrough, winning a total of five council seats. The Socialist Party consolidated its base in Fingal, just north of Dublin City, winning three seats. And Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins won a European Parliament seat for the Dublin constituency, at the expense of the two incumbents from Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil.