“Brussels consensus” suffers setback in EU elections

The Washington Post reports that “Europeans [have] dealt a blow to the continent’s traditional center-left and center-right politicians in elections for the European Parliament. . .depriving them of a majority for the first time.” It was a high-turnout election, with the highest participation level in 25 years. The Post says that voters used the elections to “take a shot at the parties that have steered Europe’s consensus-driven policies for decades.” I suspect they also took a shot at the policies themselves.

Together, the center-right and center-left parties look like controlling about 43 percent of the parliamentary seats. That’s down considerably from their current share of 53 percent.

As I argued here, because the European Parliament has been a “sign off” body — one in which the center-right and center-left parties consent to pretty much whatever the EU leaders and their bureaucrats want — the big question in this election wasn’t how the the center-right and the center-left parties would fare in competition between the two. Rather, the big question was whether the center-right and center-left parties would, together, win enough seats to keep signing off on the EU agenda — “the Brussels consensus” as it is called.

They did not. To keep rubber stamping the Brussels consensus, the big center-right and center-left parties will need help.

They may be helped by the fact that the “nationalist” parties did not do as well as they probably hoped to. They did register their best showing ever. However, according to the Washington Post, their gains were “only incremental,” not game-changing.

The Greens and other leftist parties also made gains. These parties support aspects of the “Brussels consensus,” which is, after all, a leftist project on the whole. However, the price of their support might well be a dose of additional leftism. Depending on how large a dose, the result might be an increase in Euro-skepticism, which is already gaining and has already produced the Brexit.

The nation-by-nation results are also rather interesting. I’ll discuss briefly the two countries whose politics I know a little about.

In France, Marine Le Pen’s party topped that of President Macron by one percentage point. Le Pen’s showing — about 24 percent — wasn’t out of the ordinary. Her party can expect at least that much support these days.

However, Macron’s showing was poor — 23 percent for a candidate who overwhelmed all opponents just two years ago when he was elected president.

The Greens came in third. This is a party on the rise, and not just in France.

In Britain, the party of Brexiteer Nigel Farage topped the polls. The Liberal Democrats, a longtime third party, finished second.

The two major parties — Conservative and Labour — both fared very poorly. The Conservatives paid a big price for failing to effectuate the Brexit. Labour’s leaders say they will “rethink” their position on Brexit in light of the “disastrous” election results.

The EU’s leaders would do well to rethink the “Brussels consensus,” but I don’t expect they will.

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