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European election: 60% abstain; gains for the right; revolutionary left wins seats in Portugal and Ireland
June 9, 2009 -- Socialist Resistance/International Viewpoint -- There was a broad popular abstention in the European elections. Nearly 60% of voters did not vote. Because of this, only a deformed vision of the real relationship of forces in Europe is possible. But it confirms the crisis of legitimacy of the European Union and of the governing parties that implement their policies within this framework, writes François Sabado. Other tendencies emerge, initially a rise of the right across Europe.
The right won in the big countries where it governs: in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Poland, Austria and Hungary. In Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovenia and Cyprus, the parties of the right also came first.
This right-wing surge is accompanied in a series of countries by the rise of populist right and far-right forces, in particular in Holland, where the far-right, Islamophobic and anti-European party of the Geert Wilders obtained 16.4% of the vote and four members of the European Parliament (MEPs). In Austria, Finland and Hungary, the forces of the far right which have been involved in anti-immigrant campaigns also gained support. In the United Kingdom, the British National Party (BNP) obtained two MEPs, with 6.7% of the vote. Greece also saw a breakthrough for the far right, with 7.2% for the LAOS organisation.
Space for radical left
Social democracy fell back, in particular in the countries where it governs: in Britain, Spain and Portugal. It experienced a veritable rout in Germany where it scored only 21%, one of the weakest electoral scores for the Social Pemocratic Party (SPD), not to mention the collapse of the Socialist Party (PS) in France. It only gained votes in Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Slovakia and Malta.
In a series of countries the crisis of the large traditional apparatuses of the right and social-democratic left has created broad space for a series of forces, from the Greens to the radical left, passing though a whole series of left reformist forces.
The Greens, with nearly 60 elected MEPs, emerge strengthened from these elections. One of the most significant breakthroughs being that of the alliance led by Daniel Cohn-Bendit in France.
The Danish organisation “Folkebevægelsen mod EU” (People’s Movement Against the EU), by centring its campaign against the European Union, indeed against Europe, had MEP Søren Søndergaard, also a member of the Red-Green Alliance and the Fourth International, reelected.
Parties like Die Linke in Germany, the Socialist Party (aka Tomato Party) in the Netherlands or the Front de Gauche in France maintained or increased their electoral position without making new breakthroughs.
The Party of Communist Refoundation in Italy won 3.23% and will not have any representatives in the European Parliament.
In Britain the results of the radical left were disappointing, with the NO2EU list scoring 1%, as did the SLP of Arthur Scargill.
Syriza in Greece won 4.7% of the votes and one MEP, and thus did not achieve its goal of electing three MEPs.
The New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) in France consolidated its electoral base. It made progress compared to the results of the LCR-LO lists in the last European elections of 2004 (an increase of 2.3%) without gaining any MEPs.
For a number of organisations of the anti-capitalist left, this was their electoral baptism of fire: the Polish Party of Labour, Izquierda Anticapitalista in the Spanish State, Workers Initiative in Sweden, the LCR-PSL in Belgium, and the SSP in Scotland all campaigned well but their results did not exceed 1%.
On the anti-capitalist left, we should highlight the result of the Socialist Party (affiliated to the Committee for a Workers Internationl, CWI) in Ireland which elected one MEP, following the ``No'' campaign against the Lisbon Treaty, and especially the excellent results of the Bloco de Esquerda in Portugal which made a real breakthrough with 10.73% of the votes and three MEPs.
It is always difficult to draw global lessons on relation of social and political forces from a poll marked by the abstention by almost 60% of voters. Nevertheless, the first socioeconomic effects of the crisis -- redundancies, the explosion of unemployment, lower purchasing power -- did not produce movements of electoral radicalisation, on the left or in an anti-capitalist sense. The breakthrough for Bloco de esquerda constitutes an exception.
There is a paradox which sees the right-wing neoliberal political formations that have instigated anti-social attacks flanked by the populist or far right emerging strengthened from the European poll. We might have thought that the crisis would favour anti-capitalist ideas. The situation is more complicated. Social resistance, which has not led yet to overall struggles of employees and youth, does not mechanically produce an anti-capitalist alternative.
Social democracy is mired in crisis, freeing up new spaces, but the development of the anti-capitalist left remains unequal. The beginnings for a series of organisations are promising. It is now necessary to pursue a politics which stimulates social mobilisation against the economic and ecological crisis and the accumulation of forces to make anti-capitalist solutions increasingly credible and this in complete independence from the old leaderships of the traditional left.
[François Sabado is a leader of the New Anti-Capitalist Party in France.]
Ireland: Joe Higgins elected MEP
Introduction by Joe Carolyn, Socialist Aotearoa (New Zealand)
The local elections in Ireland have seen the governing Fianna Fail party and their Green Party coalition partners massacred, as voters use the ballot box to exact revenge on a government that has been attacking workers conditions and slashing public services. With over 400,000 workers now unemployed in a country with the same population as Aotearoa, the economic crisis has now come home to rout the neoliberals at the ballot box.
Fianna Fail has been the biggest party in Ireland since the 1930s, but has now seen its national vote fall to a the low 20 per cents. The Irish Greens betrayed their principles around military neutrality, ownership of natural resources and even motorway building, and have lost heavily in all areas where they held council seats.
The great victory in the Irish elections is the breakthrough of the more radical left parties, notably the Socialist Party and the People Before Profit Alliance. As well as taking the third Dublin Euro seat, the SP has taken local council seats in Swords, Balbriggan, Fingal and Tallaght. The People Before Profit Alliance have taken five seats in Dun Laoghaire, Ballybrack, Crumlin, Clondalkin and Ballyfermot. Other independent socialists such as Declan Bree in Sligo and Seamus Healy's Workers and Unemployed Action Group in Tipperary have also broken through.
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Joe Higgins' election campaign video.
Socialist Party (Ireland) -- June 8, 2009 -- Joe Higgins’ stunning victory in the Dublin Euro constituency, getting 12.5% of the first-preference vote, outpolling Sinn Fein and defeating two sitting MEPs, was the final part in a weekend of drama and great election results for the Socialist Party in Ireland.
As well as winning the Euro seat, in the local government elections in Fingal, Clare Daly topped the poll in Swords with 3192 votes (over 20%) and was re-elected; likewise for Joe Higgins himself in Castleknock with 3787 votes (28%). The party got 2747 votes (nearly 18%) in the Mulhuddart ward, which easily re-elected Ruth Coppinger.
The party got credible votes in all areas but made important gains, getting Terry Kelleher elected to Balbriggan Town Council and Frank Gallagher elected to the council in Drogheda.
Unfortunately, our councillor Mick Murphy lost out very narrowly in Tallaght Central in South Dublin, by two hundred votes. The difficulty of getting elected in this altered area was referred to in the last article on this site. The comrades ran an extremely strong campaign and in the Tallaght areas where Mick and the party are based, we got more than 20% of the votes in many areas and polled a very strong 2159 first preference votes.
In reality Tallaght Central was subsumed into a bigger area as a result of the boundaries changes implemented last summer. That expansion and the swing to Labour made the election difficult, even though we came very close. This is a setback but it is one from which we can and will recover and fully develop our position in the months and years ahead.
Our councillor Mick Barry in Cork was easily re-elected and topped the poll with 2096 votes (26.5%), nearly one and a half quotas. Our second candidate in Cork, Dave Keating, standing late in the day got a very credible 5.5% and the profile of the party has been significantly strengthened in the city.
In terms of county councils we are up one in Castleknock and down one in Tallaght but very importantly we achieved two break throughs in important town councils in Balbriggan, north Dublin and Drogheda.
Tight race for Euro vote
The Dublin Euro election was delayed because of a recount. As the early hours ticked by, the tension began to mount. It was clear this battle for the last seat in Dublin was now down to a battle royale between the Socialist Party verses Fianna Fail, between Joe Higgins and Eoin Ryan, former minister.
Ryan was over 11,000 votes ahead. Sinn Fein’s MEP Mary Lou McDonald, who the Socialist Party had pushed into fifth position in the popular vote, was due for elimination and then her votes would be transferred to Ryan or Higgins or be non-transferable, depending on the preferences of the voters. Someone said this is going to come down to the wire. The reply came “This is the wire!”.
Of McDonald’s 55,429 votes, Joe Higgins needed to get a significantly higher rate of transfers than Ryan does if he was to catch him. The indications were that a lot of her votes were not going to transfer to anyone, thereby potentially reducing the pot of votes for Joe to catch Ryan with.
Then the moment came. McDonald’s votes had been allocated and the count was effectively over, we were just waiting for an announcement. Some party members and supporters, as well as Fianna Fail, gathered around the returning officers podium. As that was happening the staff who had done the counting all day, streamed out from behind the barriers on their way home, leaving both groups of supporters to their respective fates in a huge hanger.
If transfers operated in the way expected, everything should be okay for a Joe victory but the possibility that a huge amount of the votes may not transfer could explode that scenario. And then there is always the possibility of the unexpected in proportional representation elections. The returning officer approached the podium.
Through the distorted microphone the returning officer announced that Joe Higgins had got an additional 22,201 votes. People tensed as that was on the lower side of what we wanted. Was McDonald’s transfer to Ryan going to put him back in front and make him the winner? When it came out that Ryan got just 5426, after a few seconds, there was then the realisation that we had indeed done it, that Joe was elected, the first CWI member in the European Parliament. Even though nearly 50% of the votes didn’t transfer, the 4 to 1 ratio meant Higgins was elected with a good surplus of 5410 votes.
The local council and European elections were a disaster for the governing Fianna Fail and Green parties, and now the administration is very shaky. We will deal with the political and economic situation in Ireland and what the Socialist Party should do now in future articles, but for now we’ll register this historic victory.
France: New Anti-Capitalist Party on the European elections
Introduced by Chris Latham
The New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA), according to the NPA's website, recieved 840 713 votes or 4.88% of total vote (4.98% for metropolitan France -- the NPA did not stand lists in France's ``overseas teritories'' i.e. colonies). This was insufficient for them to secure any seats in the European Parliament. The Left Front (FG), which included the Left Party (PG) and French Communist Party (PCF), received 6.3% which was sufficient for them to secure four seats.
In the lead-up to the polls the NPA was under significant pressure through a campaign in the mainstream media arguing that a vote for it was a wasted vote, and also that the NPA should participate in the Left Front. The NPA, like the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR) which dissolved itself prior to the founding congress of the NPA, has argued that it would only participate in a united electoral front based on a clear rejection of deals and favours with Socialist Party (PS), something that the PG and PCF refuse to reject (a policy that has contributed signifcantly to the electoral decline of the PCF and a policy that it is now dependent on to retain it's seats in the French parliament and local councils).
Below is a rough translation of the NPA statement issued on June 7, 2009. It is available in French at http://www.npa2009.org/content/d%C3%A9claration-du-npa.
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Declaration of by the NPA
June 7, 2009 -- With a very high abstention rate, the elections on June 7 mark the rejection, or at the very least disinterest, that affects European institutions. Staying at home, many voters, especially young people and the popular classes, sent a clear message: “That Europe is not ours!”
It must be said that everything was done to encourage this growing anger and disengagement. The institutional parties, including the Socialist Party, did not accept the referendum of 2005, instead passing through parliament the treaty's twin. How could it be more clearly said to the public that their opinion does not count, that the management of capitalist Europe is too serious a matter to be entrusted to the people! The PS is also paying for this policy today.
The parliament that results from this vote lacks legitimacy. It does not give a realistic picture of the weight of each political party in the country.
However, in this situation, the NPA, which itself has only existed for four months, according to initial estimates, won around 5% of the vote, affirming it as a national political force.
Power has not grown in the present situation. The government hoped to downplay the economic crisis throughout the election, while at the same time playing on fears and fantasies which promote insecurity. However the main part of both the crisis and social mobilisation are still ahead for Sarkozy and the employers.
The attacks from the government and employers will be redoubled, requiring determined opposition to win anti-capitalist policies. We need a left prepared to combat, not co-administer the capitalist system through the local and European institutions. We continue to offer all formations of the anti-liberal, anti-capitalist left a lasting agreement, valid in the social and political period ahead, to encourage the convergence of struggles, this is necessary more than ever.