European Elections Illustrate New Volatility

author
Dr. Louis Perron
blog post louis

The European elections confirm a trend that I have been observing for some time: Politics in the Western world is getting increasingly volatile. I have long been experiencing this during my work in developing countries where parties appear and disappear out of nowhere. We now also see the same pattern in the Western world. In Germany for example, the Green Party is now the second biggest party. It will send the same number of representatives to the European Parliament as the CDU on its own (without counting the CSU) and is well ahead of the SPD. In France, the two parties that have dominated politics for decades are now both in single digits. The same is true for the party that is currently governing in Britain.

What are the consequences of this for campaigns? A campaign can no longer count on the support of loyal, regular voters – in particular below the age of 40. A party therefore has to continually re-invent itself, innovate and win the support of voters every day anew. It also makes the development of a coherent and timely message even more important: A campaign has to give its target voters a reason why, this time, they should vote for their candidate or their party (and not one of the competing ones). This new volatility is also a challenge for new parties, which sometimes are very successful at the outset, but then find it difficult to sustain that success. Now, this doesn’t mean that the traditional parties can not come back, but they have to start listening to what voters are saying. There are nuances across the countries, but it seems to me that voters keep sending a clear signal regarding the environment and immigration. Listening to voters includes taking note of election outcomes. I’m a strong believer that elections should have consequences. There was an election in Germany and the ruling coalition continued as if it had never happened. In Britain, it seemed like Theresa May never took note that she had actually lost the election she herself had called for. Austria is also an interesting case in that respect: the governing coalition breaks apart, and the main opposition party gets zero benefit out of it. I take it as a sign that many voters want the policies of the Kurz government to continue.