The results are in, Europeans demonstrated a clear turn to the conservative side of the political spectrum in electing the new European Parliament. The Conservative bloc will have a 100 seat margin over the Socialists. This was a real boost to the current conservative governments in Germany, France and Italy and a real blow to the socialist governments in Spain and the UK.

The elections also saw real gains for the “Green” parties and their bloc in the Parliament as well as the “ultra-nationalists” who are often called the “far right.” Hard to see where they will wind up in the Parliament with most assuming that the “Greens” will align with the Socialists and the “Ultras” with the Conservatives.

One of the major reactions was to contrast this win for the “right” with the Democractic victory in the last US election. One Spanish journalist lamented that while the “US moves forward on a progressive path, Europe chooses to stagnate.” Of course the writer’s political bent is clear. But the contrast did receive much commentary.

So what to make of the outcome? Hard to say that the swing to the right was the result of the “Global Recession” since Sarkozy, Berlusconi and Merkel have been at the helm long enough to be blamed for the economic downturn. Never-the-less the UK and Spanish governing parties quickly blamed the bad economy for their losses.

The gains for the “Ultras” were probably spurred by the anti-immigrant mood in Europe. The recession is a two edged sword here since immigrants taking jobs while locals are losing them in major numbers has generated much of the anger. On the other hand, the recession has already caused the number of new immigrants to fall off dramatically.

The Conservative gain fairly assures that European Commission President Manuel Barroso of Portugal will be installed for a second term. The only glitch here is that his re-election will be held off until the Lisbon Treaty, which reorganizes the European Union government, is adopted. The Irish, who stopped the Treaty by voting against it in a referendum last year, now want to approve it.

All of this indicates that a new, more powerful central European government will start life with a conservative flavor.

Now when and where did we start using the terms “left” and “right” to define our political parties?

Leo Cecchini
June 2009