Political dimension of the EU crisis
It was expected that the European Parliament (EP) elections would result in a significant shift to the right, the far-right parties would grow stronger and the Front National headed by Marine Le Pen would become France's top party.

In my previous article, I attempted to analyze the idea that Islamophopia has replaced the anti-Semitic ideology of the European far-right and that racist movements have undergone a process of transformation, starting in the Netherlands. The election results in France, Germany, the UK, Italy and Greece show that not only the far right, but also the far left is rising, while Euroskeptic and anti-Euro movements have become the preference of voters in general.

The Front National has not only become France's top party, with 25.4 percent of the vote, but has also gained a considerable number of seats in the EP, with 22 MEPs. Another Euroskeptic movement, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), left the Tories and Labour behind with 30 percent of the vote and 24 seats.

We will be discussing the damage done by this earthquake that has shaken the system in the upcoming months. All the data we have indicate that the main damage will be on the national level rather than the EU level, and therefore the decision-making process in Brussels will become more difficult.

If we take a closer look at the election campaigns and the result, we see that the political impact of the economic crisis that has been ongoing for the past six years has been reflected at the ballot box.

Taking a bird's-eye view over the European continent and the Mediterranean region, the political waves that were visible in central and northern Europe landed on the North African coast and the Arab world in general. The middle classes of Egypt, Syria and Tunisia became poorer and started to question the system, starting in 2008.

We are observing the political waves of the economic crisis in the central countries of the European economy. The masses, who have lost out economically and are in fear of losing more, want to make their voices heard and say they do not trust the mainstream political parties anymore.

Let's try to understand the far-right and far-left voter profiles by separating them into two groups.

The first group consists of young people who have been directly affected by the crisis, those who have lost their jobs or who are joining the ranks of the unemployed after finishing school. This group cannot be underestimated in countries such as Spain, Italy, France and Greece, where the unemployment rates are very high.

The second group consists of middle-class people who are in a relatively good position but fear losing their social status, believing that they can protect their social and economic position by isolating their nation. They see closing the borders as a solution, since they perceive not only the EU but the whole world as a threat. This group, which advocates the idea that a nation should benefit from the accumulated wealth and welfare system created by that nation, regard immigrants, the Euro and the EU as a threat.

Let's take a look at Germany, which is one of the countries least affected by the economic crisis, thanks to its recent economic and social reforms. Moreover, it has made a profit from the crisis in the Eurozone. Despite this, votes for the Liberals dramatically decreased to 3.4 percent, though it had gained 15 percent five years before. The populist party of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), which was founded just one year ago, however, gained 7 percent.

There's no doubt that the mainstream parties will not remain indifferent to these shifts. Not only individual members but also the EU will become introverted and try to make voters feel that it has received their message and wants to ease their fears. We can say that the road to the EU for Turkey, which is at the negotiation stage, and for the Balkan countries, which are expecting membership, will be harder after the EP elections.

Nevertheless, there's no need to be pessimistic. Populist movements that exploit people's fears attract voters only during times of economic crisis, as they cannot put forward alternative policies. The EU is not only a safe haven from the storm for its member countries, but also a reliable platform from which to open up to the world.

For this reason, the damage of the waves of this political crisis will be less than we witnessed on the south coast of the Mediterranean and will remain limited.

ALİ YURTTAGÜL (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CİHAN
Last Modified: 2014-05-29 11:00:02
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