The two “moderate” blocs that have run the European Parliament for decades have seen their control torn away in the recent elections.
What’s termed the centre right group was projected to win 179 seats, down from 216 in 2014. The centre left looked set to drop to 150 seats from 191.
“For the first time in 40 years, the two classical parties, socialists and conservatives, will no longer have a majority,” said Guy Verhofstadt, leader of one of the liberal groups.
They will seek alliances with the Greens or other groups to win key posts.
This is partly a reflection on the European scale of a process of the centre collapsing. That has been clear for some time on a national level and was reinforced last weekend.
In Germany the “grand coalition” of Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Labour-type SPD won less than 45 percent of the vote between them.
Among under-30s, 13 percent voted for Merkel’s conservatives and 10 percent voted for the SPD, while 33 percent voted for the Greens.
In Britain the Tories and Labour managed just 23 percent in total, down from 82 percent at the last general election.
The two historic parties of French politics, the conservative Les Republicains party and the Socialist Party, took less than 15 percent of the vote between them.
As the traditional mainstream buckles under the strain of implementing austerity, racists and the far right have rushed in. France’s fascist National Rally—formerly the National Front—topped the poll, beating president Emmanuel Macron’s neoliberal outfit.
Macron has faced months of Yellow Vest protests and strikes and is hugely unpopular. National Rally leader Le Pen used the widespread feeling against Macron to argue that only her party could deny him top spot and therefore everyone had to get behind it.
The left was too weak to offer a fighting alternative.
Reacting to months of attacks from some trade union leaders and some left parties, many Yellow Vest supporters were among the 23 million who did not vote. Others were some of the one million who spoiled their ballot or entered a blank paper.
In Italy Matteo Salvini’s far right Lega Party grabbed 34 percent of the vote, up from 6 percent in 2014. It followed a virulent campaign of anti-migrant and anti-Roma racism.
In Hungary, Viktor Orban, whose racist Fidesz party took 52 percent of the vote and 13 of the country’s 21 seats, was also a big winner. He described the elections as “the beginning of a new era against migration”.
But the far right are not unstoppable. Greek Nazis Golden Dawn saw their support fall by nearly a half from 2014. Activists have relentlessly campaigned against them and exposed their murderous activities.
In the Netherlands the far right Freedom party, led by Geert Wilders, collapsed and didn’t win a seat.
The AfD in Germany advanced, but not as strongly as it had hoped. In the Spanish state, Vox took seats for the first time but won a lower percentage than in the recent general election.
In Austria the Freedom Party Nazis saw their vote fall around 2 percentage points after a huge corruption scandal and spirited anti-fascist campaigning. But the fact it didn’t fall further is evidence of how they have built a substantial cadre and wider support that will not simply disappear.
The task—a very substantial one—is to oppose the racists and fascists on a broad basis but also to offer a better alternative than the failing and pro-austerity centre.
That can’t be done by parliamentary manoeuvre. Syriza—the once radical party in Greece that caved in to implementing austerity—has called a snap election after suffering a heavy defeat by the opposition conservatives. Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras had said the polls were a vote of confidence in his government’s policies.
And in the Spanish state the coalition led by Podemos saw its vote slide, and the mayors of Barcelona and Madrid that it had previously backed also lost. Resistance and struggle against both racism and austerity will be central to turning the tide against the right.