Ahto Lobjakas: gathered and scattered

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Ahto Lobjakas

PHOTO: Peeter Langovits

As predicted by columnist Ahto Lobjakas, we will see a grand coalition in European Parliament. Temporarily, though.

First and foremost, election results are an answer to the question. For interpreters of election results, the greatest challenge is to figure out what was the question. Whoever would deeply delve into election results, however, must see further than the answer, especially in the European Parliament elections context – which measure popularity of politicians in order to send them away from here.

In the total length and width of the European Union, the major question must unavoidably be sought in the crisis. The trigger of the debt crisis – by today grown into a political, economical, and social crisis – was pulled by Greece, less than a year after the previous EU elections in 2009.

To be more precise, the trigger was pulled by investors who quickly developed severe doubts towards abilities of Athens to manage its debts.  The rest is history.

How many will remember the decisive moments when Greece threatened to put the EU aid package on a referendum and the eurozone staggered on a knife’s edge, only became history two and a half years ago, in the fall of 2011?  Meanwhile, Greece has been to the edge of a cliff; from the same position, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy have been pulled back. All much leaner, we might add.

EU voters’ combined to the crisis question was traumatic. Notably, support was gained by the left- and rightmost of political spectrum, over the continent. Broadly speaking: the right wing rose mainly in the countries that suffered less in the crisis but had to finance the losers.

The left wing clearly got to lead only in Greece, but the shift is felt in other crisis-countries as well. The right edge of the political spectrum in the Northern parts of Europe, including Scandinavia, is seeking to distance itself from the irresponsibility and other threats – imagined or real – in the South. The left edge, in its turn, is complaining over the ridiculous dearth of solidarity in a situation where youth unemployment in Spain and Greece exceeds 50 percent.

The latter also was the state where leftwing extremism fount its apotheosis in the shape of Syriza winning the elections.

Both edges are also blaming Brussels – that’s a short summary of the European answer to the crisis question. To this answer, guardians of the recent European integration history and the defenders of status quo are now seeking a medication. Which is not easy.

France had a massive rupture – being disjointed –, as their National Front (like our Conservative People’s Party, but with historical draught and intellectually credible) took the win by 25 percent of votes. Front National desires France to exit eurozone and Schengen, and is now demanding parliamentary elections in France.

This shows we do not have to do with just a protest in the European register: for that, France is too big. The victory for Marine Le Pen’s movement is equally a protest against socialists and President Francois Hollande – who, merely two years ago, also won a protest-wave-propelled victory against predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.

A shock at least as severe hit the political system in Great Britain where a historic first has taken place: the elections were won by neither conservatives nor Labour Party. They were won by a right wing protest movement called United Kingdom Independence Party or UKIP. UKIP as well is hoping to convert its Sunday success into domestic power. UKIP seeks to quit the EU, while trying to avoid the racist or blatantly anti-immigrants undertones that have earlier plagued it. Therefore, the UKIP leader Nigel Farage has already ruled out joining the same faction as Front National.

The protests against mainstream EU in large countries are offset by Germany, where Christian Democrats and Social Democrats took 60 percent of votes between the two of them. Germany staying on track will also draw the contours for stability strategy for the rest of EU: in the European Parliament, the protectors of up-to-now history and development will probably go for the so-called grand coalition, wherein the elections winner, the centre right People’s Party, will make peace with European socialists in the name of the common good.

Socialists and the conservative standing back to back in the European Parliament, however, may only work as a temporary defence strategy. There is much to worry about: for the first time in the past 60 years, the «lines of flight» from the disappointing normality of Europe are not directed to the future, but back to the past. The term comes from Deleuze and Guattar who by this mean the pressures at edges and in heart quietly breaking any stability. So far, EU’s stability has lived on the crises, moved forward through the crises. Now, it seems, a backlash is coming.

Let’s try to picture Estonia in this Babel of European questions and answers. What was the question we got the answer to, Sunday night? Surely, it was not «Who won the party tops debate?» (Ms Lauristin, Ms Ansip were distant 3rd and 4th). The question also wasn’t «Which European Parliament faction is the most popular in Estonia?» – as the answer ALDE (i.e. EU’s liberals) by three seats (Reform Party plus Centre Party) is politically grotesque.

One answer is that Reform Party victory was stability’s victory in Estonia. But even here, the clear answer gets buried under «lines of flight». Reform did get the 1st place, while being the single party that was strong. Centre Party got the shock of its lifetime; soc dems would have been beaten without Ms Lauristin; IRL needs to thank the veteran Mr Kelam for getting in the picture. Even into the Reform result, the large support of inside oppositionist Kaja Kallas injects a measure of uncertainty.

The question of «how stable is Estonia as compared to European backdrop» thus got no clear answer. The more so as Indrek Tarand is added to the equation who, more than any party, today stands as a symbol of opposition. On that level, Estonia is sending two antithetic tendencies into the European Parliament. On the one hand, here goes the one-man-party of Mr Tarand, whose anti-political-corruption-and-backscratching platform would have sounded familiar in a large part of the rest of Europe. On the other, we dispatch the austerity policy godfather and party cadre Andrus Ansip... Our own Estonian-type moderate extremists.