Friday, January 23, 2015

BBC Democracy Day: Europe 'faces political earthquakes'

PEGIDA march. From its birth in Dreden last October, the anti Islamification group is spreading across Germany (image source)

  After the political asteroid hit that saw anti - EU parties make enormous advances throughout the European Union in 2014's European Parliament election and with several large EU nation facing elections in 2015 and 2016, mainstream media are warning that political earthquakes could be in store for Europe. Reesearch by the Economist Intelligence Unit for the BBC's Democracy Day find that anti - EU feeling focuses on two issues, the flooding of European nations with third world immigrants by the ruling elites and the ongoing assault on national sovereignty and culture by the unelected bureaucrats of Brussels.

The report says the rising appeal of populist parties could see some winning elections and mainstream parties forced into previously unthinkable alliances. Europe's "crisis of democracy" is a gap between elites and voters, EIU says, adding "there is a gaping hole at the heart of European politics where big ideas should be".

Low turnouts at the polls and sharp falls in the membership of traditional parties are among the key factors in the surge of anti EU and anti - globalist parties.

The United Kingdom, which has a General Election in early May, is "on the cusp of a potentially prolonged period of political instability", according to political analysts.

They say there is a much higher than usual chance that the election will produce an unstable government - predicting that the populist UK Independence Party (UKIP) will take votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with the Liberal Democrats losing votes and seats across the spectrum to open the way for a minority government propped up by several minor parties each with only a handful of seats.

This fragmentation of what was until 2005 a solid two - party parliament combined with Britain's first-past-the-post electoral system will, the EIU says, make it increasingly difficult to form the kind of single-party governments with a parliamentary majority that have been the norm.

The most immediate political challenge and the first test of how far the growing anti - European sentiment translates into success at the polls will be in Greece. A snap general election takes place there on 25 January. Opinion polls suggest that the far left, anti - EU party Syriza could emerge as the strongest party. If it did and was able to form a government, the Economist research predicts this would act as a catalyst for political upheaval elsewhere. Britain's election in May could throw up even bigger surprises, with Hungary and Denmark joining the UK in the race for the exit.

"The election of a Syriza government would be highly destabilising, both domestically and regionally. It would almost certainly trigger a crisis in the relationship between Greece and its international creditors, as debt write-offs form one of the core planks of its policy platform," the EIU says.

"With similar anti-establishment parties gaining ground rapidly in a number of other countries scheduled to hold elections in 2015, the spill-over effects from a further period of Greek turmoil could be significant."
'Immigration and austerity'

Other examples of European elections with potential for unpredictable results cited by EIU include polls in Denmark, Finland, Spain, France, Sweden, Germany and Ireland. The PEGIDA protests in Germany are facing offcial attempts to ban them, a move which violates Greman's right to protest and is likely to backfire on the Government.

"There is a common denominator in these countries: the rise of populist parties," the EIU says, "Anti-establishment sentiment has surged across the eurozone (and the larger EU) and the risk of political disruption and potential crises is high."

Opposition to governance from Brussels, immigration and austerity are key themes and rallying cries for many of these parties.

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