Greens and right surge; centrists shrink in EU elections
Green and right-wing parties pulled off impressive gains as centrist parties saw abysmal losses in the 2019 EU elections.
With the issue of climate change and the migration crisis dominating discourse, the result was certainly a rather expected one. Over four days last week voters across 28 countries delivered the highest turnout (50.9%) in a European election for 20 years, as they selected new representatives to sit in the European Parliament.
751 seats were contested as party groups tried hard to get close to the 376-seat majority mark.
The European People’s Party (centre-right Christian Democrats), which contains Germany’s CDU formerly led by Angela Merkel, continues its hold on the most seats in parliament. However, their seat share dropped from 217 to 180 (-37).
The Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats (centre-left Social Democrats), containing Germany’s Social Democratic Party, Spain’s Socialist Workers’ Party, and the UK’s Labour Party, retained the number two spot. However, their seat share too saw an abysmal drop from 187 to 146 (-41). The only party that did exceptionally well was Portugal’s Socialist Party.
The EPP and S&D alliance formed the EU Parliament government from 2014-2019, and their failure to deal with climate change and the migration crisis resulted in their horrid performance. However, even the right-wing and far-leftists weren’t spared from the polarizing wrath of the aforementioned issues.
The European Conservatives & Reformists (right-wing Conservatives), containing the UK’s Conservative Party and Poland’s Law & Justice Party, performed poorly as they dropped from 76 to 59 (-17). European United Left (far-left Socialist/Communist Eurosceptics), containing Germany’s Die Linke and Greece’s Syriza, fell from 52 to 39 (-13).
With huge losses for conventional parties (except the United Left), it was clear that the European people faced rising resentment towards the mainstream establishment. Their losses were quickly scooped by the Greens, right-wing, far-right and, rather surprisingly, liberals.
The only centrist group that gained seats was the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), which gained a whopping 41 seats to land at 109. The group is headed by EU’s Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt, who stated that he would dissolve the group to create a new Liberal group with France’s Emmanuel Macron. The UK’s Liberal Democrats also gained, showing increasing discontent with the mainstream Tories and Labour.
The Greens/European Free Alliance jumped from 52 to 69 (+17). The group contains Green and other regional parties such as the UK Green Party, Scottish National Party, regional Spanish parties and Pirate parties. Their stress on the climate issue, along with rising ethno-nationalism (such as Catalonia in Spain), contributed to their rise.
Hard Eurosceptic groups saw sharp rises too. Europe of Freedom & Direct Democracy group led by Brexiteer Nigel Farage climbed from 41 to 54 seats (+13). Farage’s Brexit Party, created only a month ago, managed to amass more votes than the Tories and Labour combined which further highlighted growing discontent with how mainstream parties handled Brexit. The group further consists of Italy’s populist Five-Star Movement and Germany’s far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).
Europe of Nations & Freedom group, the other eurosceptic group with a greater number of far right-wing parties such as France’s National Front led by Marine Le Pen and Italy’s Lega Nord led by PM Matteo Salvini, surged as well. Their seat share skyrocketed from 36 to 58 (+22). Salvini said he will try to form an anti-EU bloc with Marine Le Pen and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.
In total, mainstream establishment centrist parties lost 54 seats while Greens and Eurosceptics picked up 52.
What it all means
The Christian and Social Democrat balance of power has been shaken; they can no longer form a government without the help of another pro-EU group. The Liberals hold the balance of power, but the Greens and Eurosceptics will push their respective agendas very strongly. If the EU can’t handle the issues of climate change and migration, it may soon find itself at odds with the unity it sought to create within its continent.
UPDATE: Around 8 pm on Tuesday evening, police moved in on blockaders who were blocking the train tracks. Independent photojournalist Beth Baisch continues to try to cover the blockade and continues to be followed by a harassing anti-pipeline activist.
An anti-pipeline blockade was established in Toronto near the corner of Jane and Dundas at the end of the workday on Tuesday. Police were quick to respond and are currently facing off against the blockaders.
Police took some blockaders off the tracks but others remain and the tracks are still blocked as blockaders are demanding an Indigenous liaison.
Photojournalist Beth Baisch, who has freelanced for The Post Millennial, is on the scene, is being blocked from taking video by activists.
The blockade was set up by Toronto group Rising Tide Toronto and was one of a few blockades that prevented thousands of people from getting home from work.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.
Conservative leadership candidate, Peter MacKay, is not a fan of the legalization of marijuana. He says he is worried about how it will affect driving, mental health and young people according to Vice.
During an interview with the Kelowna Daily Courier MacKay said that he believes the legalization of marijuana was “forced” and it should only have been decriminalized.
“It should have been decriminalized and that’s where our government was heading on the advice of the Canadian Police Association and chiefs of police. Bringing in a phased-way with decriminalization would have been far preferable. What I most worry about is the impact on young people, the mental health implications, the impaired driving implications,” said MacKay.
Stats Canada released information that conflicts with some of MacKay’s views. The statistics show that consumption of marijuana in 15-17-year-olds has dropped 10 percent since its legalization.
MacKay described the legalization as a “back-of-a-napkin promise that the current prime minister had made.”
He also called the attempt by the government to reduce black market sales a “complete failure.”
“I believe we have jumped the shark on that issue. More emphasis on protecting people from other drugs, fentanyl and oxycontin has to be part of any plan that’s there for public health reasons.” MacKay continued.
“The promise that it (legalization) was going to reduce the black market has been a complete failure. There’s now simply more marijuana available to more people, including young people. I don’t think that’s the most productive and highest priority that a government could pursue.”
MacKay is not the only politician against cannabis legalization. Former Conservative MP Julian Fantino compared legalization to murder in an old interview with the Toronto Sun, Fantino said, “I guess we can legalize murder, too, and then we won’t have a murder case”
In 2015, Fantino said he was still “completely opposed to legalization of marijuana”
Peter MacKay’s campaign manager Alex Nuttall has had to apologize over a tweet that seemed to link an invitation to a shooting range with complaints about the anti-pipeline protests.
In his original tweet, Nuttall said “tonight might be the best church service ever. People keep walking up to me to saying the blockade should go down … and then they announced a day at the range for anyone that wants to go.”
This tweet soon created outrage on social media, with many seeing Nuttall’s message as a suggestion for Canadians to “shoot ingenious people.” Nuttall, however, was quickly clarified his tweet, saying “there are two unrelated thoughts that shouldn’t have been communicated together.”
Peter MacKay’s campaign has been plagued with mistakes on social media. A few weeks ago, Mackay had to apologize for a tweet referencing the Prime Minister’s indulgence in yoga, which seemed to make fun of the innocuous activity.
After Nuttall published the apology, he made his Twitter account private.
A murder with a hammer that killed a 64-year-old Toronto woman on Feb. 21 is being called a terrorist attack by police, as the murderer now faces terrorism-related charges.
Police say Saad Akhtar, 30, was facing first-degree murder charges over the death of the woman, when those charges were changed to “murder-terrorist activity” by prosecutors. The change was made due to the prosecutors belief that the murder constituted terrorist activity.
“As part of our investigation into the homicide, we came across evidence that lead us to believe there may be a terrorism-related offence,” said Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray to Global News.
Police contacted the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team in Toronto, the group responsible for probing terrorism cases. The charges were then changed Monday morning.
Akhtar would eventually turn himself into police shortly after the attack.
The victim was apparently a random target. Sixty-four-year-old Hang-Kam Annie Chiu was called “a stranger” by the suspect’s mother.
If found guilty of terrorism charges, it would be the first deadly terrorist instance since the July 22, 2018 Danforth shootings in which Faisal Hussain killed two people and injured 13 in Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood.
Akhtar’s murder occurred on his usual daily walk home from his local mosque, but his mother claims he did not return home at the usual time. Police say the murder did not occur on Akhtar’s usual route home.