Salvini, Farage, Le Pen

Nationalist, eurosceptic parties came first in three of the 'Big Four' EU countries
It's difficult to gauge the impact of elections to the European Parliament (EP) on politics in Europe, primarily because the EP was designed to not have much of an impact on politics in Europe. Voters know this, which is why overall turnout at EP elections has fallen at every consecutive election since high interest in the first EU-wide vote in 1979. However, this year turnout rose for the first time, to 52%, and it comes at a time when the Parliament's powers are expanding to, de facto, take on the ability to propose legislation.

The overall result from this weekend's voting is being spun in the media as the successful arrest of 'populist' anti-EU parties. However, it's noteworthy that the two biggest voting blocs (the centre-right coalition of nominally conservative parties, and the nominally centre-left coalition of socialist/democratic parties) have, for the first time in 40 years, lost their (combined) traditional majority.

Not that they're not going to lose any sleep over that though: the 'traditional centre' can rely on new allies because the Green and Liberal blocs increased their share of seats. This means that, in the coming 5-year term, the 'majority vote' at the EU level will be more of the same 'neo-liberal centrism', only 'leftier' - so, expect more corporatism, more 'saving the planet', and much more 'social justice'.

BBC has a useful breakdown of results by country here

So that's the good news for the establishment. But given that most Europeans view the world through the lens of their country, the main impact of European election results is seen on the national stage. Marine Le Pen's National Rally beat president Macron's En Marche by 1%, a victory the nationalist leader used to call for snap elections in France's parliament, a call that Macron has dismissed. Over in Greece, on the other hand, prime minister Alexis Tsipras has called snap elections because Syriza was beaten by the New Democracy conservative party.

Two other major countries that saw nationalist parties come first were the UK and Italy. The primary reason the British establishment held an EU referendum in the first place was to prevent Nigel Farage draining support from the Tories' voter base, especially after he pipped the Conservative and Labour Party leaders in the 2014 EP election.

But with Farage coming first in Europe (again) with his brand new Brexit Party - and winning by a mile against the Tories' paltry 8% - that scenario has come to pass. The Labour Party fared little better, so if Corbyn's call for a snap election is successful, while Brexit remains in limbo, Farage could become the next British prime minister.


Proving that what's 'trending' online doesn't always translate to the real world, Farage's former party UKIP gambled with putting forward social commentators Carl Benjamin (aka Sargon of Akkad), Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson), and Mark Meechan (aka Count Dankula). All three were soundly beaten.

Matteo Salvini's Lega was arguably the most significant winner in this election, winning 34% of the vote from a turnout of 56% in one of the 'Big Four' EU countries. In the previous EP election in 2014, his coalition partner, the Five-Star Movement, came first and La Lega got merely 6%. But now they've completely switched positions, reflecting growing popular support for Salvini's conservative stance on mass immigration and national sovereignty. Should this development trigger snap elections in Italy, he too could become prime minister.

Those were the most noteworthy changes in EP voting among large EU countries. Elsewhere, the conservative/nationalist parties in government in Poland, Hungary and Austria also came first in their respective polls. Viktor Orban's party won the only absolute majority of any in all Europe, proving once more that his is the democratic standard to follow.

In the context of what has been taking place in Vienna over the last 10 days, Austria's result was bizarre: Chancellor Kurz's conservatives came first, and Vice-Chancellor Strache's Freedom Party third, as they did in Austria's national election in 2017 - but both men have in the meantime been booted out of government following a highly suspicious 'scandal'. Outgoing EU European Commission president Juncker might say that this is no less than "stupid nationalists in love with their countries" deserve.

More on that to come!