Lessons from the European elections

(Photo: Getty/iStock)

This is a big year for elections. Already the biggest electorate in the world, that of India, has chosen to stay with its current leader. The election in the UK appears to be stumbling towards a foregone conclusion. And the unbelievable choice the American electorate have to make will come to a head in November. But last week it was the turn of the 400 million voters in the European Union and the results were revealing.

There was a general move towards the right, with the exception of the Scandinavian countries. While the centre right held on – and even gained a few seats - the centre left and the Greens took a battering. The Greens lost 20 seats, the 'Renew' centre left grouping lost 23. Meanwhile Meloni in Italy cemented her power and demonstrated her increasing leadership in Europe by an astonishing result.

In Germany the AFD, despite a disastrous campaign in which they were disowned by Marie Le Pens' National Rally as being too extreme, came second. The governing party, Olaf Scholt's SPD, only got 13.9% of the vote – their worst result since 1949. In Austria, the right-wing Freedom Party won, despite only being formed during Covid as a reaction to lockdown measures.

But it was the result in France which had the most impact. Le Pen's RN got 31.47% of the vote, more than double the result of Macron's party coming in second with a mere 14.56%. As a result, Macron pushed the 'nuclear' button and dissolved parliament, setting new elections for the beginning of July. His job as president is not up for grabs but he seems to be gambling that when faced with a choice of the right-wing FN or his centrist party - in a parliament where the results matter because, unlike the EU, the French parliament has real power - the French electorate will come to heel.

There are four major lessons to be learned:

1. Immigration, Net Zero and progressive 'woke' policies are a real vote loser for many people. The lack of genuine debate and the marginalisation of anyone who questions the self-evidently 'correct' views, has pushed many to the margins.

2. Religion – and particularly Islam – has become a major issue. The question of whether Islamic political theology is compatible with Western liberal democracies based on Christianity is one that has yet to be answered.

3. Young people are in general moving more towards the right. In one sense this was really surprising. The general assumption has been that the younger you are the more likely you are to vote for Green/Left/Progressive parties. It was on that basis that the SPD and Greens in Germany lowered the voting age to 16. The youth rewarded them with 17% of under 24 year olds, and a majority of 24 to 30 year olds voting for the AFD. In France 32% of 18 to 34-year-olds voted for the RN – more than double that of 2019. But when you think about it, a youth rebellion against the progressive establishment is not that surprising. Around 50% of young people do not go to university and are not subject to the indoctrination that has now become mainstream. Plus, young people rebel. To be Green and Progressive is the Establishment position. To be right wing is to be a rebel now.

4. Democracy is under threat. Those on the progressive left would entirely agree with this statement, but they do not realise that they are as much a major threat to democracy as the far right. Why? Firstly, because they make the dangerous assumption that democracy is under threat because people voted for parties the left do not like. That is democracy. When you threaten to ban groups or limit free speech (for example banning Tik Tok or 'misinformation'), in order to get the result you want, that is the real threat to democracy. It is interesting that the BBC for example regularly refers to Le Pen's RN as far right, or extreme right, but never refers to the radical left-wing La France Insoumise (LFI), who gained almost 10% as far left. They can't even bring themselves to say that about the Communists! When you have such bias in the media, academic and political classes, it is the far right who benefit – because people think that if wanting less immigration, less woke policies, and supporting traditional marriage makes them far right, then they might as well support parties which take advantage of that.

Democracy is also under threat in another way. The EU elections are very unusual. They are for a parliament which has very limited power. It is the only democratic parliament in the world which does not have the power to initiate its own legislation. That is why many regard the EU elections as the biggest opinion poll in the world. The EU Commissioners are the people who have the real power. Given that they are appointed by national governments it is assumed that the democratic control comes through them. But the trouble is that no EU government would dare go against the Commission – they could not survive.

The European Union is a supranational body, not a collection of independent nation states. In effect when a nation state joins the EU it gives up some of its national sovereignty to what is essentially a bureaucratic technocracy. The EU faces economic stagnation, a growing militarisation in the light of the Russia/Ukraine war, a disenfranchisement and disillusion among many people (only 50% of people bother to vote); the increasing costs of Net Zero; the growing immigrant crisis and the question of how Islam fits into a post-Christian Europe.

These last elections show us that the people of Europe are unhappy with the current situation. They will not change anything. The basic structure of the EU was designed to prevent such 'populist' movements (what some might call democracy). From a Christian perspective the greatest change that Europe needs is a revival of vital Christianity. The ultimate choice is not between right and left, democracy or technocracy, progressivism or conservatism, free markets or big government. The real choice is whether Europe is going to regress to paganism, become an Islamic theocracy, or return to its Christian roots. May the Lord show mercy and shine his light in the darkness.

David Robertson is the minister of Scots Kirk Presbyterian Church in Newcastle, New South Wales. He blogs at The Wee Flea.