Monday, June 8, 2009

The far-right gains in EU Parliament elections

Centre-right parties have dominated over their left-wing opponents in the 2009 European Parliament elections June 4-7. Of major concern in the biggest transnational vote in history last week, are the gains for the far-right and anti-immigrant parties.

Of the approximately 375 million eligible voters in the 27 EU member states, only 43% turned out to vote for representatives to fill the 736 parliament seats. In the Czech Republic, turnout was much lower, only 28%, though approximately 75% of the laws affecting Czech citizens are decided in the EU Parliament.

Thankfully, the Czech ultra-right-wing parties did not make the cut to represent the Czech Republic in the EU governing body, the alarming news is that the far-right Workers Party (DS) got 1.07 percent in the vote. The party thus fulfilled its election goal, becoming eligible to receive money from the EU earmarked for parties that raise support topping one percent. To my dismay, the far-right also came out strong in the UK, Netherlands, Austria and Hungary.

Here is the breakdown, taken from BBC online:

UK - the far-right British National Party, which gained two seats (of 72) in Brussels - its first wins in national elections.

Austria - 2 seats of 17 for the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe)

Hungary - The far-right Jobbik ("For a Better Hungary") party also performed stronger than expected, beating the Socialists into third place. Jobbik, which blames the Roma, or Gypsies, for a perceived breakdown of law and order in the countryside, took nearly 15%, giving it three seats.

The Netherlands - The far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) of the controversial politician, Geert Wilders, stormed to second place with 17%, winning four seats (out of 25) in the European Parliament in its first attempt. Mr Wilders is facing prosecution for making anti-Islamic statements, following a Dutch court ruling in January.

As political analyst for the Times Online David Charter writes, the danger lies here:

"The gateway to . . . funding and, crucially, influence, will be opened if Europe’s far-right parties can club together to form an official parliamentary group. This will require at least 25 MEPs (up from 20 in the last session) from a minimum of seven countries . . . An official group would not only receive guaranteed speaking rights in the parliament chamber at every debate and formal occasion but also a share of the annual €26.3 million allowance for parliamentary groups. . . If the European far Right bands together, it will have the power to claim deputy chairmanships of some committees."

And by the way, the votes were pen on paper and all one needed to show was photo ID, verifying one's permanent address already in the voter database.