It’s been a good 10 days since the last European cast ballots in the European Parliamentary elections across the 28-member bloc. While the hustings are done and dusted and the new make-up of the Strasbourg parliament is known, the exercise itself is still reverberating across smaller European nations.
Take Denmark for example. Danes voted last Thursday and the results should go the way of the socialists who will look to build upon their results and give short-shift to the far-right there.
But the socials are only doing well, simply because they took some of the plays from the far-right too, and have campaigned for curtailing the number of refugees from Islamic nations who are trying to build a new life in the country of 5.75 million. It’s a nation that is strongly anti-Islamic, having banned the wearing of the burqa last year and insists that any new refugee basically hand over all their family money and possessions such as iPhones and jewellery to Danish authorities.
In Ireland, there is a general election in the offing sometime in the next 12 months. Its timing depends on Brexit as none of the main political parties want to do anything that might upset the applecart while the United Kingdom is in the middle of trying to figure out what to do and when to do it.
Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach — Prime Minister — Leo Varadkar will, however, have taken note of the shellacking handed to his party. If there’s any good news, it’s that Sinn Fein too — an all-Ireland party that contests elections in the Republic and across the border in Northern Ireland too — did poorly and might now tone done its rhetoric as it regroups and licks its election wounds.
In Greece, the poor showing of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza party — it lost badly to New Democracy led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis — has led to a snap general election.
Tsipras wasn’t scheduled to face the voters until October. The poor election results, however, changed that, and he’s in a tough position given that he was the public face for the austerity measures forced on Greece by the troika of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and European Union creditor nations.
In France, where the gilet jeunes (yellow jackets) have been protesting for months, where centres of the main French cities have seen running street battles and riot gas most weekends, the sky is not falling wither. Yes, the right-wing nationalists of Marine LePen still garner most support — just as she did in the last presidential election — but the En March! centrist movement of President Emmanuel Macron remains a potent force capable of holding its own at the ballot box.
In the UK, where Brexit may happen on October 31 — or it may not — the Brexit Party of Nigel Farage won almost 35 per cent of votes cast, with the ruling Conservatives consigned to fourth place. Supposing his level of support does hold up should a general election to be called in the UK, Farage would be tantalisingly close to a majority — and he would be burning up the phone lines to Arlene Foster in Belfast to look for the support of the 10 or so Brexit members of parliament elected for the Democratic Unionists in Northern Ireland. Yes, despite all of the DUPs support for Brexit, the Euro elections showed that its core support remains in place.
And then there’s Scotland. While there isn’t a general election due, and the above shows that it would be madness for the Conservatives to do anything to trigger their humiliation and annihilation at the polls — they might end up with just 30 or seats, some suggest — the Euro elections were really good news for Scotland’s First Minister and leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, Nicola Sturgeon.
Sturgeon has been calling for a second referendum on Scottish independence from the very morning the full Brexit results became clear. Scots voted by a large majority to remain in the EU, and she has been using the divergence between opinion north of the English border with that in Westminster to drive home the case once more for full Scottish independence.
The 2017 general elections saw Scotland’s Conservatives gain ground — their leader, Ruth Davidson, is head and shoulder’s above as a dozen or so MPs at Westminster want to fill the shoes vacated by Theresa May. But Sturgeon got the boost she needed in those European elections. The SNP polled at 38 per cent and won half of the six Strasbourg seats. No sooner were the results known than Sturgeon published legislation to provide for that second Scottish referendum before the end of 2021.
That date would coincide with the end of the transition period negotiated between Brussels and May’s government in the Withdrawal Agreement. Of course, that’s in limbo for now, but as far as Sturgeon is concerned, the timing for a second referendum can only get even better once the real negative effects of leaving begin to be felt.