The European political landscape, going into 2022, seems set for
some dramatic changes as immigration issues continue to
provoke voter unrest, and economic issues stir public anxiety.
Long-time German Chancellor Angela Merkel has retired, and
her center-right Christian Democratic successor Olaf Scholz
seems so far unlikely to prevail in the next German election.
German left-of-center parties, especially the Green Party, have
appeared to make the most gains. Merkel led her nation and
the rest of the European Union member countries in providing
a destination for Turkish and other Islamic emigrants in recent
decades — which has altered the ethnic make-up of European
demographics and provoked voter backlash.
France, following civil unrest caused by ending her North
African colonial possessions since the 1960s, opening her
borders to all former colonial subjects, ended decades of
right-left governments with the surprise landslide election of
President Emmanuel Macron and a parliamentary majority of
his new centrist party in 2017, and M. Macron seemed headed
for easy re-election in April, 2022 until immigration issues
arose anew, and a second charismatic radical right figure, Eric
Zenmour, appeared and roiled French politics. He now will join
long-time radical leader Marine Le Pen to run against Macron.
This will split the far right vote, and would ensure the president’s
re-election except for the revival of the French conservative party
under Paris district leader Valerie Pecresse who is now likely to
make the first-round run-off — and might well defeat Macron in
the second-round final election if she receives most of the
Zenmour and Le Pen votes. The French far left and Marxist vote,
once very powerful, is now very weak — and is unlikely to be
decisive in the run-off.
Spain is now a constitutional monarchy with a socialist government
under Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. A new election is not scheduled
for 2022. but a new conservative party star, Madrid Regional
President (equivalent to a U,S, state governor) Isabel Diaz Ayuso
has succeeded where so many others have failed by imposing
lockdowns. Sra, Diaz Ayuso did promote mandatory mask use and
vaccinations, but refused to impose lockdowns and closing of bars
restaurants, stores and public events — relying on citiizens’ “common
sense.” During the first pandemic wave in early 2020, Sanchez locked
down all of Spain..But when the second and third waves followed,
Sra. Diaz Ayuse only ordered masking and promoted vaccinations.
Madrid, hit hard by the first wave, did much better in the later waves
despite having the freedom to circulate, shop and dine out —- even
as the rest of Spain and most of the rest of Europe was locked
down. Madrid district recently rewarded her with a huge landslide
re-election victory with a margin of a million more votes than her
previous election —- and the Madrid district economy has boomed.
Austria has seen its charismatic conservative leader Sebastian
Kurz resign under fire, and his successor also resign, leaving
the small central European nation’s politics unsettled going
into 2022. Austria, like several of its neighbors, has resisted EU
open immigration policies,
Italy has changed governments so often in recent years, it seems
always to be a political mish-mash, and nearly impossible to define
with traditional right-center left terms. As one of Europe’s major
tourist destinations, the pandemic has severely affected the IItalian
economy during mandatory lockdown periods.
The most stable nations, yet the most controversial for EU elites,
seem to be in Eastern Europe, including Hungary and Poland,
which have conservative governments that have resisted EU
open border policies. But bordering Russia, Belarus and Ukraine
creates economic and security issues for them.
Smaller northern European nations, including Belgium,
Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries, long bastions of
national social welfare policies and single ethnic demographics,
are each facing acute pressures from debt and immigration.
In Denmark, the left-of-canter prime minister shut down the
nation’s mink farming industry (the world’s largest), prematurely
ordering minks to be killed, and putting 5500 mink farmers
out of work when it was discovered that the pandemic
virus could be transmitted from minks to humans . It turned to
be an illegal government action, which the prime minister now
concedes,, but a major Danish export industry was destroyed,,
The off-continent United Kingdom led by conservative leader
Boris Johnson is undergoing some painful post-Brexit
adjustments, and like all European communities, the
persistence of pandemic issues. Short of a now-unexpected
no confidence parliamentary vote, no change in 2022 is
anticipated, although Conservatives recently lost a long-time
Tory seat in a special election to a Liberal Party candidate —
and the leftist Labour Party is rising in the polls. Long-standing
issues about Northern Ireland and Scotland continue to confront
the Johnson government.
Banking, energy, security and trade issues plague Europe as
does the fallout from earlier immigration policies. The stability
of post-Cold War Europe and its general unity is being tested
once again, and 2022 could be one of its most pivotal years.
Copyright (c) 2021 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.