Your Roadmap to Understanding Europe’s Election Year

Tiago André Lopes

May the odds be with them 

The impressive result of SYRIZA in Greece legislative elections was the first big political news of Europe in 2015. But the electoral year (that started with the presidential elections in Croatia) still has elections to come in Estonia, Finland, Denmark, United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain, Poland and Croatia all of them bound to increase the pressure towards some change in Brussels… and in Berlin. Mindthis Magazine gathers some interesting insights into key elections for you to enjoy. 

Greece and the SYRIZA effect

SYRIZA’s victory was not a surprise in itself. What surprised Europe was the dimension of the victory with the far-left party nearly reaching single majority (SYRIZA conquered 149 mandates and single majority is reached with 151 mandates) and with traditional parties being smashed by the voters.

SYRIZA was able to capitalize big on the surmounting discontent in Greece towards the inefficacy of austerity and what is perceived as the degradation of life conditions in Greece. The manichaeist rethoric (Greece vs. EU), in fact, is not new. We should remember that in his campaign (in 2012) François Hollande (current President of France) used several times a rethoric of confrontation towards Berlin.

What was surprising on Greece post-legislative-elections was the choice of partner to form a governmental coalition. With several experts expecting a SYRIZA – To Potami coalition, the winners of the scrutiny opted for a merger with the Independent Greeks (right-wing party). The cohabitation between representatives from the far-left and from the right will be something interesting to follow.

Northern euroscepticism on the rise

Finland’s governmental coalition (National Coalition Party, Social Democratic Party, Swedish People’s Party and Christian Democrats) will be put to the test in the parliamentary elections of April 7. Initially with five parties, the coalition shrieked to four parties when the Green League decided to withdraw its support, after a Cabinet decision supporting the construction of a nuclear power plant.

According to the polls the Centre Party is positioned to profit with disenchantment with the government. Also performing well in the recent polls is the eurosceptic True Finns Party. Inside the governmental coalition disagreements regarding immigration issues and Finland’s position regarding NATO might also pave the way for instability and political tension.

Parliamentary elections in Denmark (happening in the first half of September) seem positioned to increase the pressure towards a mutation of the European Union, at least on a psychosocial and institutional level, since the Danish Peoples Party (a right-wing, eurosceptic, anti-immigration party) is consistently portrayed as the third biggest choice for the electorate, very close to the Social Democrats that have appeared in second place, so far…

United Kingdom: in? out? Both?

United Kingdom upcoming parliamentary elections (May 7) will have an international topic diving the electorate: the permanence of the United Kingdom in the European Union. David Cameron promised a referendum on the permanence of the His Majesty’s country in the EU in 2017 (or even before that).

The promise of the Prime-Minister is an attempt to minimize the attractiveness of the eurosceptic UKIP party. Latest polls give to UKIP a chance to get almost a quarter of the electorate vote and something like 16 members at the lower house of the British Parliament.

With Greece under “administration” of a eurosceptic-nationalist coalition, a strong eurosceptic party in the UK is bound to transform Europe into an ideological battleground between pro-EU (divided themselves between pro-Federalism and pro-moderate-Institutionalism) and eurosceptic.

To the United Kingdom a strong victory of the UKIP in the upcoming parliamentary elections, might be a sign that any referendum on the permanence of the country in the EU might lead to its exit (Brexit?) and that might refrain Downing Street from keeping its current promises.

Iberian Peninsula turning left?

Portugal and Spain will both have parliamentary elections this year and, so far, left parties (that are less friendly towards austerity measures) are poised to win.

In Portugal (that will have its elections in late September or early October) the Socialist Party will (according to the polls) win the election with a slim victory, that will most probably force the party to find a coalition partner. Tricky task, since the centre-left/left/far-left parties in Portugal have showed inability to dialogue between themselves in the last few years. In Portugal it will be interesting to see how the LIVRE Party (centre-left) and the new eurosceptic Democratic Republican Party (right-wing) will perform during the elections.

In Spain (whose scrutiny is scheduled to happen in December) the elections might result in a repetition of the “Greek scenario”, with the new party eurosceptic PODEMOS (We Can) figuring in first place in several recent polls. If all these results are confirmed the EU Southern members will naturally ally against the austerity policies espoused by the trio Brussels – Amsterdam – Berlin. A new period of internal instability will rise inside the EU that has been facing several shock waves since 2008.

Croatia’s need for a new cycle

Croatia’s six year economic recession that made 19% of the active population jobless has been fertile ground for euroscepticism. In fact, the inability of the current government (formed of a coalition of four centre-left parties) to revert the cycle was pointed out as one of the major reasons why Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic (HDZ, centre-right) won the Presidential elections.

The new President is expected to call parliamentary elections to happen on late December, with HDZ (centre-right party) poised to return to power (that was lost in the previous scrutiny in 2011). However this late turn to right of Croatia will most probably be inefficient to stop a new transformation of Europe that seems to be moving on from an “austerity cycle” to something new; not necessarily better (or worst), but certainly new…

Estonia and Poland as EU-believers?

Estonian upcoming parliamentary elections (March 1) do not seem in route to “feed” the eurosceptic wave with the two eurosceptic parties performing below the minimum threshold (5%) to access any mandate at the Estonian parliament and the ruling coalition between the Reform Party (centre-right) and the Social Democrats (centre-left) might even be able to continue in power.

Poland parliamentary elections (happening in October) are also, for the moment, confirming the pro-EU stance of the country from which it came the new President of the European Council. It is true that the soft-eurosceptic Law and Justice Party appears in second in several polls, but it is also true that the party as beens consistently loosing public support with its numbers dropping from 40% in December 2014 to 27% in the end of January 2015.

As always in the world of politics, change is the only constant. Mindthis Magazine will continue to provide viewpoints and insights on how 2015 will change Europe for the next decade.