Over this weekend 28 member states of the European Union go to the polls in an impressive exercise of democracy. Polling takes place over four days, ending on Sunday. The full results won’t be finalized until next week. But already it is widely anticipated that so-called populist parties across the bloc will make significant gains in winning seats in the 751-member chamber of the European Parliament.
One glaring anomaly is that Britain is participating in these elections, even though, in theory, it was supposed to have departed the EU in March. The Brexit wrangling has persisted without a clear result, meaning that the United Kingdom is obliged to hold EU parliamentary elections like the other 27 member states. European parliamentarians elected in Britain may not actually take their seats in Brussels or Strasburg because the Brexit process when complete – whenever that happens – will make their seats redundant.
Another anomaly is that the 2019 elections have been overshadowed with political and media claims in the run-up to the polls that Russia would launch an “interference campaign” to sway voters to vote for political parties opposed to the EU status quo.
Yet on the eve of the ballots being cast, Western news media and various EU security pundits have had to admit that there has been no evidence of the anticipated “Kremlin influence campaign”. Such an alleged Russian meddling campaign in the EU is an echo of the long-running, baseless narrative applied to the US presidential elections in 2016. No evidence has ever been produced to substantiate either scenario.
Russia has consistently and vehemently denied any such notion of “peddling influence” over Western voters. But the great anomaly is that Western media and European security agencies are having to admit that there is no indication that Russia has targeted the EU elections with a campaign of media interference.
The rise of nationalist, anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic, anti-austerity, anti-war, anti-capitalist political movements across Europe is simply due to this: a surge in anti-establishment parties. The surge of protests among European citizens against a neoliberal establishment has nothing to do with alleged “Russian interference” and everything to do with an inherent democratic deficit in the 28-member bloc.
By trying to blame Russia for “malignly influencing” EU citizens and funding “anti-EU parties”, as the government scandal in Austria sought to do this week, is an act of desperate denial politics by the EU establishment as to its own dire political and economic failings. Such official denial and scapegoating of Moscow is only fueling even more popular protest and instability within the EU.
French President Emmanuel Macron this week typically blamed “collusion between nationalist parties and foreign interests for threatening the existence of Europe”. Macron’s elitist views are symptomatic of the establishment malaise which is actually at the core of the problem in the EU’s crumbling cohesion and authority.
Britain’s Brexit referendum held in 2016 was a forewarning of the popular dissent across the EU towards an establishment in Brussels perceived as anti-democratic, beholden to big finance and Neo-liberal capitalist austerity, as well as kowtowing to a Washington-led consensus for illegal overseas wars and NATO expansionism.
The EU status quo has led to massive problems of immigration from pandering to America’s illegal warmongering in the Middle East and North Africa. European citizens have become awake to those problems and are opposed to the degeneration of Europe as an adjunct of Washington’s imperialism. That dissent is also manifest in many European citizens being opposed to the EU’s compliance with US-led sanctions and hostility towards Russia. The fact of that does not mean that Russia is somehow influencing opposition movements. It is simply a fact that European citizens are in revolt against an anti-democratic status quo that is all too often servile to a transatlantic axis that is not in their fundamental democratic interests, like so many other policies that the EU status quo slavishly adheres to.
Emmanuel Macron and other EU establishment figures may push the fantasy that the bloc is under threat from “far-right nationalist parties in cahoots with the Kremlin”.
The fact is that the EU is simply perceived by a growing number of its 512 million citizens as a monolith that is unresponsive to democratic needs. That’s why they are rebelling against the status quo by voting for a range of anti-establishment parties. If the EU can’t recognize the democratic impulse from within its own bloc then its future is destined for further disruption as the Brexit movement portends. Blaming “external enemies” like Russia for its own inherent political problems is being proven for the desperate denial that it is.
The people are speaking this weekend. The EU establishment better listen.
This article firs appeared on Strategic Culture Foundation