A Surprise In European Parliament Elections

Today was election day across Europe as voters lined up to elect representatives to the European Parliament. The results were startling — at least to me.

From the WSJ:

A thorough drubbing of European leaders was the order of the day in elections across the continent, as voters spooked by the economic collapse registered their dissatisfaction in European Parliament and local polls that saw a sharp swing to the right.

News was grim for Socialists in recession-ravaged Hungary, where they lost ground to the right-leaning Fidesz party; in Spain, where the center-right People’s Party pulled ahead of the ruling Socialists; and in the Netherlands, where socialist support fell from 24% in the last go-round in 2004 to just 12%. The extreme-right Party for Freedom, the party of wild-haired nationalist Geert Wilders, came in second place in the Dutch poll.

Across Europe, just holding on was a victory for center-right parties. Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats in Germany slid by some six percentage points, but the left-leaning Social Democrats fared much worse.

I’ve not seen any analysis of the results but the results surprise me. I would have assumed that faced with economic uncertainty and to a degree a failure of if not capitalism at least some of its pieces that voters would have tended towards the left. Essentially looking for comfort in the embrace of big government. Apparently not so.

There could be and probably are a lot of subtle things going on here of which I’m not aware. Nevertheless, it makes me wonder about the meme that the financial crisis and recession has opened the door to those who want a much larger role for government in the U.S. Is there something subtle going on or are the European voters just punishing whomever happens to be in power and in the case of Europe that just happened to be center and center-left governments?

Any ideas are welcome as are any links to analyses.

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