It was a treasure trove of information: nearly 20,000 emails and 8,000 attachments, sent by and to the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the body which runs the United States’ Democratic party, found its way into the hands of WikiLeaks and were unleashed on the world in late July 2016. The emails were siphoned off DNC servers over the course of a two-month period, but dated back to January 2015, and included private conversations that torpedoed the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and eventually helped elevate Donald Trump to the White House. It wasn’t just in the United States that the ramifications of this unprecedented leak of internal correspondence – which in July 2018 US special counsel Robert Mueller attributed to 12 members of the Russian military – were felt. Something seismic shifted underfoot. While nefarious nation states had been propping up or supporting campaigns aimed at promoting their goals in third countries for decades, this was the most overt attempt at changing the course of history in favour of a third party. And it worked.
On November 8, 2016, around three hours after polls in Alaska closed and Donald Trump was declared president-elect, preparations for the European Parliamentary elections due in May 2019 changed. They changed because everything changed.
There was a recognition across the European Union that preparations for its upcoming parliamentary elections needed to be stepped up – but the core principle of independence among the member states meant that only a certain amount of centralised planning could take place. Instead, each of the 27 member states expected to be part of the Union in May (Britain, of course, departs at the end of March, if all goes to plan) will take the lead in ensuring the sanctity of their vote, while the European Union will possibly oversee exercises stress-testing member states’ response.