Mr. Salvini has been crowned (or at least, has crowned himself) this movement’s leader. During the campaign he met with fellow nationalists across Europe, and organized a big rally in Milan to unite the parties. His dream now is to build a cohesive voting bloc in the new Parliament that can shape the legislative agenda. He’s likely to fail: Nationalists aren’t known for cooperation and compromise, and many issues divide them, in particular Russia. Even so, they are a force to be reckoned with.
None of these parties seems any longer to support exiting the European Union or the eurozone. Instead, they want to change it from within. If the nationalist far right can mobilize a third of the European Parliament’s votes by making common cause with other conservatives, it will be able to do lots of damage, for example by blocking any attempt by the European Commission to punish a European Union country that violates the rule of law. Last year the Parliament issued such a warning against Hungary. Would the same thing be possible in 2020? It’s not hard to imagine the European Union becoming a union of liberal and illiberal democracies
Thankfully — and for this we can be grateful to voters — the euroskeptic nationalists are not the only new force to be reckoned with in the European Parliament. Liberal and Green parties were the surprise winners of this election. Together they gained about 60 additional seats, giving them a total of 176; with this will come much political influence. Perhaps the Greens will use their success to demand that climate change become a priority for the continent.
The Greens found their support predominantly among young, urban pro-Europeans who support the idea of a united Europe but are critical of the European Union as it exists today. They see Brussels as risk averse and neglectful when it comes to long-term problems like rising inequality and the environment.
So these are the victors:
- Ecological liberals who want to preserve life on Earth and
- national populists who want to preserve their way of life.
But what they have in common is the sense that the current trajectory of politics and society is not sustainable. They both offered change and change was in demand.
On the eve of the elections, a poll by the European Council on Foreign Relations found that while the trust in the European Union is higher than any time in the last 25 years, a majority of Europeans believe that the bloc will fall apart within 20 years.
For the moment, supporters of the European Union don’t need to panic. The elections demonstrated that Mr. Bannon’s predictions of a revolution at the ballot box were fantastical. The nationalist far right is not going to break up the European Union any time soon. But while these elections succeeded in containing the rise of euroskepticism, the real problem is not going away: europessimism.