From Wed Jun 23 09:45:07 2004
From: WW News Service <>
To: WW News Service <>
Subject: wwnews Digest #826
Date: Wed, 23 Jun 2004 09:30:37 -0400

From: <> (WW)
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Date: Wed, 23 Jun 2004 08:54:59 -0400
Subject: [WW] European elections: few governments go unpunished

European elections: few comments go unpunished

By John Catalinotto, Workers World, 24 June 2004

Voters in the June 11–14 elections for the newly expanded European Parliament showed their general dissatisfaction with unemployment, social cuts and the Iraq war by punishing nearly every sitting government.

Though the Bush administration ran no candidates, you could argue that it still managed to lose these elections. Elements in the European ruling class who decided to follow Washington into its Iraq adventure were among the biggest losers.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labor Party had the worst finish of a ruling British party since 1918. Labor got only about 23 percent of the vote, finishing third behind the Conservatives and the Liberal Party. The Labor Party did equally poorly in local administrative elections. The only important Labor candidate bucking the trend was Ken Livingston, an opponent of the Iraq war who was re-elected mayor of London.

Bush's second most important European ally regarding the Iraq occupation is Italy's media magnate Premier Silvio Berlusconi. His Forza Italia party fell nearly 5 percentage points short of their 2001 results, when they got 25.3 percent. Berlusconi's prediction they would improve on that total fell flat.

The other major U.S. ally, rightist Jose Maria Aznar in Spain, had already lost the March 14 national elections soundly. The Socialist Party leader Luis Zapatero, who succeeded Aznar, quickly pulled Spain's troops out of Iraq. His party now also beat Aznar's by 43 to 41 percent in the European elections.

The ruling parties in Portugal and the Netherlands, two other major Bush allies, also got trounced in the EU elections.


While anyone too closely identified with the Iraq debacle lost badly, this wasn't the only issue of concern to the voters. First of all, many voters didn't take this election seriously. Only 150 million voted; this is out of the 350 million eligible. Parti cipation from the new EU members in Eastern Europe was under 30 percent.

In Poland, the biggest of the new additions to the EU, only 21 percent of eligible voters went to the polls.

In Germany, Chancellor Gerhardt Schroe der's ruling Social Democratic Party got only 20 percent of the votes cast, its lowest showing since 1953. In France, Jacques Chirac's party got only 17 percent compared to 30 percent for the Socialist Party. These two imperialist leaders had opposed U.S. tactics regarding Iraq, but high unemployment coupled with across-the-board cutbacks in social programs have combined to make them unpopular despite their anti-war stand last year.

Up until about 20 years ago, there were mass political parties whose program was openly for socialism. Now the political parties strong enough to form a majority government in parliament are all parties openly representing the ruling class. It is in Europe much as it is in the United States. The center-right government is one possible majority--Chirac in France or Berlusconi in Italy for example. A center- left government is an alternative majority--the Socialist Party supported by the French Communist Party in France; the Olive Tree coalition in Italy.

In France and Italy alike, the center-left coalition and the center- right are both loyal servants of the ruling class. Both center-left groupings in France and Italy, for example, carried out the imperialist war against Yugoslavia in 1999. There was some vote in some countries for parties to the left of the center-left, like the Communist Refoundation in Italy, which got 6.1 percent. But with few exceptions, European elections are much like Repub licans vs. Democrats in another form.

Because of this, the European elections are quite limited in how they express the workers' class consciousness. Instead, the elections indicate more subtle changes. The clearest lesson of the June 11-14 European elections was a rejection of U.S. foreign policy, especially the occupation of Iraq, and mass dissatisfaction over the economic stagnation in most of Europe.