In less than three weeks’ time, voters in 28 countries across the European Union will go to the polls to elect the next European Parliament. Five years since the last set of European elections, the social and political context has altered profoundly. These elections will be the first since the full extent of the euro zone crisis became apparent, when Greece became the first of five European countries to seek a full or partial EU-IMF bailout in 2010. But while the continent is now tentatively emerging from recession, as economic growth returns, government bond yields settle down and countries such as Ireland and Portugal regain full market access, the scars of the economic crisis run deep. Between May 23rd and May 25th voters throughout Europe will have their first opportunity to express their opinions through the ballot box. The results are not expected to favour Europe’s mainstream political establishment. A shift towards the political fringes has been creeping in to national politics in a number of European countries in recent years as voter frustration with mainstream politics has intensified.
The strong performance of Marine Le Pen’s National Front in this year’s local elections in France, the rise of Golden Dawn in Greece which has seen its national support grow from less than 1 per cent in 2009 to 7 per cent in the 2012 elections, and the surprise success of the left-wing Alternative for Deutschland (Afd) in last year’s German elections, less than a year after its formation, have shown that anti-establishment parties are making an impact on the political landscape.
Pollsters predict these national trends to be replicated at an EU level. A recent poll by Open Europe predicts that anti-EU parties could win more than 30 per cent of the vote.