Some are talking about the alliance last week of France’s national front leader Marine Le Pen and the Dutch populist Geert Wilders as a European Tea Party. Whether or not these two are functioning as Europe’s answer to Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz, their anti-EU policies are aimed at forming a broader alliance with parties in other member states.
The Euroskeptic bloc could be more damaging than the Tea Party. Tea Partiers are keen to get government out of peoples’ lives, but they don’t oppose the very existence of the union or of U.S. Congress. The Euroskeptics do not support the existence of the EU and by extension they oppose the European Parliament, into which they are seeking election. If, as polls predict, Euroskeptics emerge with strong support, we may see a “self-hating Parliament” that ultimately wants to secure its own abolition.
Le Pen and Wilders describe the alliance as the “start of the liberation of Europe from the monster of Brussels”. The European Parliament has the power to block the appointment of the European Commission (the EU’s main executive body), to veto the majority of European legislation, to block the signature of international treaties and trade agreements and even to hold up the EU’s annual budget.
There is some doubt about the seriousness of the Euroskeptic movement. International affairs analyst Cas Mudde, in a recent piece for the Washington Post, argued that talk of an EU legislative shutdown is overblown. Using the most recent national election results as a guide, Mudde predicts that Euroskeptic parties of left and right will win a mere 15 percent of the total seats.
There are reasons to doubt Mudde’s use of electoral results in general elections to predict European elections. European Union elections do not result in the election of a government. For most voters, the elections are a poll without consequence; a chance to vent their grievances. Opinion surveys give a different answer – showing Euroskeptic parties potentially topping the polls for the elections in many of Europe’s bigger member states. Le Pen promises to do well in France, the UK Independence Party in the UK, Wilders in the Netherlands, Beppe Grillo¹s 5-Star Movement in Italy, and leftist Syriza in Greece. Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland, which narrowly failed to get a seat in the national parliament, might end up in double digits in the European poll.