The results are in and Europeans voted for change. With almost all seats announced in the 2019 European Parliament elections, the big takeaway is that the mainstream centre-right and centre-left parties have taken a drubbing. Instead, voters have been attracted by smaller parties promising a radical new direction for Europe, from liberals and greens, to nationalists and eurosceptic movements.
In France, the vote for both the Socialist Party and the centre-right Les Républicains has collapsed. Instead, Marine Le Pen’s eurosceptic and anti-immigrant National Rally has surged to first place, though Emmanuel Macron’s pro-EU En Marche party also held its own, meaning Le Pen cannot claim total victory.
In Germany, the Social Democratic Party has faced a backlash as a result of their “grand coalition” with Merkel’s Christian Democrats, finding themselves pushed into third place by the greens. In Italy, an early election looks likely as Matteo Salvini’s far-right League topped the polls with almost 35% of the vote.
In the UK, the electoral hammering of both the governing Conservatives and the opposition Labour party was dramatic, as the Brexit debate polarised the electorate and handed huge gains to the Brexit Party, the Liberal Democrats, and the Greens.
What message are Europeans trying to send their politicians? Clearly, voters in individual EU Member States each had their own priorities and concerns. Nevertheless, the overall picture was not one of apathy and disconnection from politics (turnout was at its highest in 20 years). Nor was it a message of outright rejection of European unity (there is still a clear and comfortable majority for pro-EU parties). However, the status quo has been rejected.
Some analysts worry that the message from voters is mixed and contradictory. With no clear majority for any group or party, we could be in for five years of political bickering and gridlock. However, Europe is used to compromise. A plurality of ideas is healthy for any democracy. Plus, if anything, the new European Parliament will be more political and less technocratic, demonstrating to voters that they are being listened to and their vote made a difference.
So, what message were voters trying to send? Citizens want change, but what sort of change? When you cast your vote in the 2019 European Parliament elections (as hopefully you all did!), what was motivating you? What message were you trying to send? Were you voting tactically, or were you voting for the party that best represents your beliefs?
How do you feel about the European Union? What message were you trying to send politicians with your vote? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!