European Parliament awaits the "Alternative"


Der Spiegel

Things are heating up in Germany! The Federal Election Commission, following a meeting on April 18 in Wiesbaden, has finally determined the composition of the participants in the European Parliament elections to be held on July 6–9. It is announced that the Bundesbürgers will come to the ballot boxes on July 9, the last day of the marathon.

Recall that the European Parliament (along with the EU Council) is the legislative body of the European Union. It was established in 1957. It is elected every five years. The EP sits alternately in Strasbourg and Brussels. The current elections will be the tenth. A total of 720 people will be elected to the new composition — 15 more than five years ago.

60% of respondents from across the EU declared interest in the elections. This is 11% more than a similar poll five years ago showed. 40% responded that they were not interested in voting. There were 10% more of these in 2019. The Eurobarometer poll showed which topics voters are particularly interested in: 33% believe that the fight against poverty and social exclusion should be discussed, 32% favor public health issues.

However, let’s return to Germany, the key European country whose situation most clearly reflects attitudes towards the staffing of the main legislative body. In national parliamentary elections, citizens focus mainly on the proven traditional parties, which, as they say, are closer to them. Secondary associations are cut off due to the five-percent barrier stipulated by the Constitution, which must be overcome to pass to the Bundestag.

In total, the Federal Republic of Germany has a quota of 96 European candidates. Thanks to the lower age limit, 16- and 17-year-olds will be able to vote for the first time. There are no restrictive barriers. In other words, any political association admitted to the elections is enough to get less than one percent of votes (0.96%) to send its representative to Strasbourg, in accordance with the pre-approved list of candidates.

According to the head of the election commission Ruth Brand, a total of 59 parties and associations have submitted documents for registration. Those of them, who are not currently represented in the European Parliament, Bundestag or one of the Landtags, had to collect a certain number of signatures in their support, as well as to present the charter and program.

After a thorough vetting process, 35 applicants were allowed to stand for election. Last-minute decisions were made on the appeals filed for ineligibility. Six of the seven appeals were denied.

A total of 34 parties and associations are on the ballot. This is due to the representation of the conservative bloc, which will present a united front: the CSU in Bavaria and the CDU in the other federal states. For the first time, the Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance — Reason and Justice, registered in January, and the eco-activist movement The Last Generation will take part.

Now a little bit of exoticism. The Democratic Alliance for Diversity and Awakening (Dava), which was recently accused of having close ties to Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, will be on the ballot. The Common Sense Party, the Human Peace for Happiness and Welfare for All Party, and the Party in Support of Rejuvenation Research of Classical Medicine also gained access.

Once elected, newly elected MPs can join pan-European parties (e.g. Conservative, Social Democratic or Green) and become members of their factions. Or they can remain independent.

According to analysts, the upcoming European Parliament is expected to include more representatives of right-populist parties. As for the Federal Republic of Germany, more than 20 representatives of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) may receive mandates.

Just now, a scandal is raging around Bundestag deputy Petr Bystron, who is included in the AfD’s list of candidates for the EP elections. Czech and German media accuse him of cooperating with and possibly receiving money from the pro-Russian propaganda media portal Voice of Europe. Czech special services believe that it was allegedly created to influence European politicians and was financed from Moscow. What do the Czechs have to do with it? The fact is that Petr was born and lived in Czechoslovakia for some time.

His colleagues in the parliamentary faction refused to exclude him from the electoral list, but suggested that he do it voluntarily. Until the circumstances are clarified, so to speak. He himself categorically rejects the accusations and does not intend to follow their advice.

«At the moment, the party board proceeds from the innocence of Mr. Bystron», said AfD co-chairs Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla.

Petr is far from the first «alternative» who is accused of close contacts with the Russian authorities. Representatives of this party often receive invitations to visit Russia as observers. There was also a delegation at the March presidential elections in Moscow. In general, attacks on this party, which opposes anti-Russian sanctions and the supply of German weapons to Ukraine, have become widespread in recent months.

The authorities are doing their utmost to counteract the growing influence of the AfD, which has firmly established itself as a leader not only in the eastern states but also in other regions.

It is already clear that in the Russophobic European Parliament, the influx of new forces from the right may well change the balance and change the general mood from liberal to national-patriotic. If not as a whole, then in a significant part of it. Let’s wait and see.