Revolutionaries elected to European Parliament

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Revolutionaries elected to European Parliament

By Norm Dixon

Europe's ruling social democratic and labour parties were dealt a sharp rebuke by voters in elections for the European Parliament (EP) held June 11-13. Social Democrats rule in most of the European Union's 15 member states and have pursued policies dominated by austerity and privatisation. They backed the US-directed NATO war against Serbia. Dissatisfied voters abstained in record numbers, while many others voted for conservative opposition parties. However, Europe's far-left and green parties have scored some significant gains.

 

The European People's Party, which groups representatives of the continent's conservative parties in the 626-seat EP, for the first time since 1979, when Euro MPs began to be directly elected, has won more seats than the social democratic parties, which are grouped in the Party of European Socialists.

The British Labour Party, which lost 33 of its 62 seats, and Germany's Social Democrat-Green coalition were heavily outpolled by their conservative rivals. The German Social Democratic Party's vote was more than 10% less than its winning 41% in the September German general election. The German Greens, whose leader is Germany's foreign minister and the government's vocal defender of the NATO war in the Balkans, dropped to 6.4% from the 10.1% they received in the September general election and the 13.1% in the 1994 European election.

The rate of abstention ranged from 29% in Italy to 77% in Britain (abstention was 15% in Belgium, where voting is compulsory). The average abstention rate across the whole EU was a record 51%.

PictureA range of far-left parties have entered the EP. In France, the Lutte Ouvriere-Ligue Communiste Revolutionaire (LO-LCR) list won 5.2% of the vote and almost 1 million votes. This means the Trotskyist LO will take three seats and the LCR, affiliated to the Fourth International, will take two.

The LCR is the larger of the two parties but the LO has a longer tradition of electoral participation. LO's lead candidate, Arlette Laguiller, has regularly stood in elections and receives respectable tallies; she was top of the joint list. Respected LCR leader Alain Krivine will become a Euro MP.

The disastrous result for the French Communist Party, which won just 7%, suggests that many Communist Party voters switched to the LO-LCR in protest at CP participation in the French Socialist Party-dominated coalition government.

The LCR's weekly newspaper Rouge said the LO-LCR result, “despite massive abstention by working people, confirms the growing support for the far left since 1995. The media are mostly talking about the high score for the far right and the greens. But it is also clear that the far left has affirmed itself as a significant, stable political force.”

According to Rouge, those who voted for the LO-LCR list voted against the bosses, the right and the far right, and punished the French government for its policies: “Socialist Party Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and his Communist and Green partners received a clear warning. People will no longer tolerate the policies of a government which is privatising, questioning retirement pension rights, encouraging the explosion of part-time work and job insecurity, and doing nothing about unemployment.”

The LO-LCR deputies will try to unite the left — including those who voted for the governing parties — around demands for an immediate change in government policies. “Outlaw redundancy measures and 'downsizing' in companies which are making huge profits, while cutting jobs. Impose a reduction of the working week, in a way that creates new jobs, without worsening working conditions. Defend the retirement pension against government attacks. Give papers to all the undocumented immigrants”, Rouge demanded.

PictureIn Italy, the left-wing Party of Communist Refoundation won six EP seats, including one supporter of the party's far-left Bandiera Rossa tendency.

In Germany, the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) achieved its best ever result, scoring 5.8% of the vote and six Euro MPs for the first time. The abstention rate in Germany was 45%. The PDS almost doubled its vote in the former West Germany, in Hamburg jumping from 1.4% to 3.3%. In the former East Germany, the PDS vote was close to that of the Social Democratic Party and overtook it in the states of Mecklenburg and Saxony.

In the Netherlands, the ex-Maoist Socialist Party (dubbed the “Tomato Party”) won its first Euro MP. The SP was the only Dutch parliamentary party to oppose NATO's bombing of Serbia.

The Scottish Socialist Party failed to win a seat despite winning almost 40,000 votes and 4% of the vote. Support for the SSP was highest in Glasgow where 11% voted for the party. The SSP even managed 2.5% of the vote in the remote Highlands and Islands electorate.

Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party won more than 81,000 votes in England and Scotland.

Overall, the representation of Green parties in the EP has increased by nine seats to 36 despite the German Greens' loss of five seats (down from 12), the Swedish Greens' loss of two seats (down from four) and the Italian Greens' loss of one seat (from three).

The French Greens debuted with nine seats after scoring 9% of the vote, the Netherlands' Green Left party won four seats (up from one), Belgian Greens won four seats (up from two) and the Greens in Austria and Finland each won two seats (up from one in both cases). The Irish Greens retained their two seats. The Spanish Greens won their first seat. The British Greens gained more than 625,000 votes and retained one seat.

Support for green parties seems to have been boosted by a scandal over dioxin-contaminated food in Belgium and is more of a protest vote than a left vote. Green parties in Belgium, France and Holland supported the NATO war against Serbia. In France, Germany and Italy, Green ministers participate in less-than-impressive governments, while the Dutch and Belgium greens are desperate to participate in government.

In the Netherlands, the Green Left party is prepared to join a coalition government with the Christian Democrats as well as the Labour Party. The good result for the French Greens came after a particularly right-wing campaign led by one-time May-June '68 hero Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who supports the neo-liberal European Monetary Union.

In the Belgian general election, the French-language Ecolo and the Dutch-language Agalev green parties won 13.7% of the votes for the federal parliament, up from 8.4% in 1995. The two parties are expected to hold 20 seats in the 150-seat parliament.

In other interesting results, the Welsh Plaid Cymru (Welsh nationalists) and the Scottish Nationalist Party each won two seats. In Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein won 17% compared to the Social Democratic and Labour Party's 28.1%.

In France, hopes that far-right National Front, which split a few months ago, would fall below 5% and lose its Euro MPs were dashed. The two factions received about 9%. In Belgium, the fascist Flemish Bloc keeps on growing with 16% in Flanders (the Dutch-speaking northern half of the country) and is now the biggest party in the main Flemish cities.

[Thanks to International Viewpoint for many of these results.]