June 11, 2019
Politics and the new sense of urgency
Climate and migration, are these the new vote catchers in European politics? The European elections saw the rise of green parties in several member countries. They were boosted by a young electorate looking for more radical political action than the tepid changes proposed by their governments. Behind their political mobilisation is a desire for change and a fear of an apocalyptic end of civilisation if politics continues as usual.
On the other side of the spectrum are those who have the desire to be protected. There is a fear of a migration overrun and a society incapable to respond. As one gilet jaune summed it up:
"Nothing holds anymore, all collapse: family, nation, borders, local industries, parties, certainties about what is true or false, and of course the planet."
These two fears of climate and migration seem to divide the electorate according to age and location. The young and dynamic voters in the cities are more concerned about climate while in the countryside people hold on to territory, nation and frontiers and are thus more concerned about migration. The first group is preoccupied with the global place for living, the second group defends their way of living, as Le Figaro puts it. Under this classification the Brexit party would be just the English version of the second group of voters, targeting the EU instead of immigrants.
Where does this sit in the current political landscape? And what does this mean for elections? We already saw the rise of populists on the far right, making it into government in Italy, Poland and Hungary. Next we are likely to see green parties getting ready to to lead national governments too, most likely starting in Germany. By comparison traditional left and right wing parties seem too slow to respond.
Of course, circumstances are different from nation to nation and voting systems are different too. The French electoral system with its two rounds of voting naturally favours two big parties that can mobilise a majority behind them in the second round. Until Emmanuel Macron won in 2017, Socialists or Les Républicains were quasi assured to win the second round. Now that the two are faltering and lingering with only 8% or 6% in the polls respectively, the political landscape is shaken up too. It is divided between Macron's centre opposing Marine Le Pen's far-right RN and trying to swallow the rising green EELV. Neither RN nor EELV are likely to win a second round presidential elections and since the system does not easily allow coalitions, this desire for change is likely to come up in a different form. Unless the electoral system changes, expect more more protests like the gilets jaunes, warns Jean-Marc Vittori.