A few rather unusual new members of the new European Parliament introduced by Le Figaro newspaper reflect a new direction within EU politics.
It seems that EU citizens no longer solely choose their representatives along the traditional left-right lines but instead opt for personalities and specific issues that cannot be classified simply as “right wing” or “left wing”. New campaign topics and campaigning tools are creating a new form of public opinion which can be very fast-moving, very topic-focused, and very much linked to charismatic personalities.
A few recent electoral successes illustrate this point well: a media-friendly Finnish priest known for his sense of humour (“Father Mitro”), who’s stated he will never stop wearing his cassock, gathered more than 71,000 direct votes, although he decided to go with the Social Democrats only in May; the Swedish Pirate Party which fights for the freedom of access to the internet and the right to online privacy won 1 seat, despite the party only being created in 2006; the sudden focus on transparency has led to populists such as Austrian Hans-Peter Martin being re-elected; the Greens have shown that citizens now care as much about the environment as about social and economic issues; and the revival of nationalist and xenophobic parties in some countries poses a serious threat to traditional democratic parties.
Today, debates flare up and die out very quickly. Politicians who catch the right trends at the right moment can enjoy substantial success.
Now, with all these guys around, who says the new Parliament won’t be hitting the headlines in the months ahead?