European Parliament campaign gets tough
The gloves are off in the run-up to this week’s European Parliament election.
The Party of European Socialists (PES) has published a list of 11 rival candidates it describes as terrible and invites readers to complete the list by adding a 12th candidate of his or her choice. The PES’ centre-right rivals, the European People’s Party (EPP), has hit back by calling it “cheap populism”.
The list is headed by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and includes Jaime Mayor Oreja, a Spanish member of the European Parliament, and British National Party candidate Nick Griffin. Griffin, Igor Gräzin of the Estonia Reform Party and Derk-Jan Eppink of the Belgian Lijst Dedecker are the only three representing groups that are not part of the EPP.
PES officials said the candidates on the list would not contribute anything positive to parliament. In the case of Berlusconi, the PES’ complaint is that he has no intention of sitting in any of Italy’s five electoral regions. It said sed Oreja had not spoken in the parliament since November 2007 and had failed to condemn the authoritarian rule of General Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain from 1936 until 1975.
It rejected statements by Eppink about what he called the the difficulty of being “a white, heterosexual Dutchman with a good job and an expensive car” in the Belgian region of Flanders. It criticised Brice Hortefeux, France’s social affairs and employment minister, for saying illegal immigrants were neither “honest” nor “clean”. Griffin has been condemned for denying the Holocaust.
EPP President Wilfried Martens issued a statement condemning the publication of the list and said it was a new low for the PES leadership.
“To call a number of distinguished EPP candidates ‘terrible’ as the PES did today or calling our millions of supporters across Europe ‘barbarians’ as the President of the Socialist International did last week, is truly regrettable,” Martens said. “I am convinced that the European citizens will punish the populism of the Socialists at the polls.”
The PES also suggested the EPP was such a broad alliance that voters who back a party in their home country could be backing a party in another country with policies and candidates he or she did not approve of.
Even so, the PES brings together various ideologies as well, with members ranging from the British Labour Party to the Social Democratic Party in Germany.