Monday, June 14, 2004

Spinning the Euro-results 

See also: My new post "Why the bastards haven't spoken."

The Euro-election results are in, and it seems that every governing party, with the exception of Spanish Socialist*, is a loser. This is how AP sees the new political landscape:

"European voters punished leaders in Britain, Italy and the Netherlands for getting involved in Iraq - but also turned their ire on the war's chief opponents German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac over local issues, projections showed Sunday."
Isn't it nice how the pro-war leaders are punished for their pro-war stance, whereas anti-war leaders are punished over "local issues"? There obviously aren't any local issues in Great Britain, Italy and the Netherlands, but plenty in Germany and France.

I'm not sure about the domestic politics in Italy and the Netherlands (maybe some readers can enlighten us), but looking at the British results, while Labour did suffer an almost 6% swing against it, the much touted anti-war alternative to both major parties, the Liberal Democrats, only had a swing towards them of just over 2%. The voters might have punished Labor, but they have voted for pro-war and cautiously Euro-sceptic Conservatives (who actually had a bigger swing against them than Labour) and strongly Euro-sceptic UK Independence Party. Local issues, anyone? By the way, one of the stars of the UKIP who got swept into the Euro Parliament is Robert Kilroy-Silk, the former TV personality who created some controversy by describing Arabs in his newspaper column as "suicide bombers, limb amputators, women repressors" and murderers of "3,000 civilians on September 11" who "danced in the hot, dusty streets to celebrate".

I also had a look at the results in my native Poland. Out of 54 Euro seats, 27 went to pro-EU, pro-war centre-right parties, 18 to anti-EU, anti-war populist-nationalist right, and 6 to the governing pro-EU, pro-war left-wing party (with the last 3 going to a mainstream peasants' party). The ruling, pro-war party did indeed get a drubbing, but the pro-Europe, pro-US, pro-war parties have won a pretty clear majority.

Overall, the election is a victory for European centre-right:

"The European People's Party (EPP), the centre-right grouping, is set to hold 269 seats in the 732-member parliament, ahead of the European Socialists on 199, according to parliament President Pat Cox late Sunday. But he said eurosceptics and extreme nationalist parties have also boosted their support, and are set to make up 10-15 percent of members in the new parliament."
Good news, with a caveat: being on the right of politics in Europe guarantees neither commitment to a sensible foreign policy nor support for free market principles. Just remember that Jacques Chirac is on the "right" in France.

* As AP writes,

"Among the few that did well were Spain's Socialists, who recently withdrew troops from Iraq after a backlash over a March 11 terrorist attack. The Socialists - surprise victors in elections days after the bombings - won a new stamp of legitimacy by emerging on top in the European parliamentary vote as well."
The Socialists' decision to withdraw troops from Iraq might have of course contributed to their victory in European election; seeing however that all other incumbent parties experienced voter backlash, the other possibility is that the SpanSocs being in power for only three months now haven't yet generated as much ill will towards them as all the other governments.

Update: James Tarranto notes in today's "Best of the Web" that Reuters engages in the same spin: "So let's see if we have this straight: When pro-war parties do badly in elections, it's because voters are antiwar. When antiwar parties do badly--as in Germany and France--it's because of . . . well, who knows?" Exactly.

Update II: The spinning continues. This is how BBC portrays what in effect has been the vitory by the governing right in Italy:

"Mr Berlusconi's open support for the war against Iraq and US President George W Bush is seen as one reason why his own party's share of the vote decreased, while that of his coalition partners increased."
Get that? Even the result in Spain is hardly a watershed:

"The governing Socialists repeated their general-election victory, but by a much narrower margin than opinion polls had predicted. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's list edged out the Popular Party by only two percentage points, winning 25 seats to the conservative opposition party's 23."
And while you're all here: Why not check out my regular round-up of news from Europe, "All in the same EU-Boat", and the third installment of the ever popular "Good News from Iraq" segment.


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