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European Elections

John Simkin

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Interesting article in the Guardian about Sweden and the European Elections. Jon Henley writes:

Peaceful, prosperous, clean, sensible Sweden, with its enviably generous welfare state, unashamed tax-and-spend policies, and upstanding record of international solidarity, is a model in so many respects that, until last September, most people who call themselves social democrats would have said it pretty much enshrined EU ideals.

But the population of 9m exploded a good many myths when it voted in a referendum - by 56% to 42% with a turnout of nearly 83% - not to adopt the euro.

Henley points out the rapid growth in the new anti-EU party the Junilistan. An estimated 25% of the population are considering voting for this party in the elections for the European Parliament.

Jon Henley argues:

The Europe debate has seen the emergence of something quite remarkable in Sweden, a phenomenon that the governments of most continental European countries have so far managed to avoid: the drawing up of a whole new set of political dividing lines in which rightwing and leftwing activists find themselves unlikely allies against a perceived external threat.

The Swedish battle may be the forerunner of a Europe-wide struggle, the stirrings of which are now being felt with the birth of EU-critical parties in Denmark, Austria, Holland and even Slovenia. It is pitting small, individual, local and familiar interests against big, multinational, impersonal, imported - and ultimately alien - pressures.


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Just to add something from Aftonbladet (the main Swedish Social-Democratic evening tabloid … and also the highest-circulation paper in the country):

It now looks as if more people in Sweden are actually going to vote than ever in a European election, which probably means that the anti-EU vote is going to be stronger than ever (though I could be wrong). The turnout will probably still be fairly small, compared with Swedish elections (53% as against 80+%), but there's a stirring of interest.

What gets to people here is the perceived right-wing, neo-liberal nature of the European Union. It's taken Sweden a long time to make the transition from the basket-case of Europe (in the early years of the last century, when the country lost 25% of its population to emigration in a generation) to one of the most successful, and it didn't happen by adopting Thatcherite policies.

What people also see is that the Swedish economy is performing better than that of Europe as a whole (and has been doing that for some time), and that Sweden stands to lose rather than gain from closer ties to the EU.

If there was a general election today, the socialist block would regain power quite easily, if the opinion polls are anything to go by.

So … if the EU can't win over a basically internationalist country like Sweden, what long-term hope has it really got?

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George Galloway is the leader of the new Respect Party and is standing in London in the European elections. In today’s Guardian he argues that people should use their votes to punish those political parties that supported the Iraq War.

But where are the tumbrels for those who actually voted for war, dispatching other people's sons and daughters to kill and be killed on a hoax? No minister on either side of the Atlantic has lost their job over the war or the subsequent shameful conduct of the occupation. Not a single British parliamentarian who voted for it has said, like Aaronovitch, "Mea culpa, if that's what you want".

This is why next week's elections are so important. If our politicians are so unrepentant we must punish them. Not just because people should be punished for mendacity, incompetence, or crimes and blunders as big as this, but because if they are not they or future generations of leaders may do the same again.

Condign punishment for Blair will ensure that neither Brown nor any other New Labour leader will venture down this path in future.

Three questions:

(1) Is George Galloway right to argue that people should use their vote over one issue?

(2) Is the Iraq War having an influence in the way people are voting in other European countries.

(3) What are the main issues in the European election in your country?



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It would seem that extremist parties (left and right) will do well in the European Elections.

One poll suggests that the anti-European UK Independence Party will win 18% of the vote. The BNP will also do well in run-down industrial areas that in the past have voted for the Labour Party. Respect and the Greens could do well in university towns.


I currently can’t make up my mind whether to vote for the Liberal Democrats, Green or Respect.

European members might be interested in this article by Polly Toynbee on the elections in the UK.

What is likely to happen in your country?

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I don't think I could bring myself to vote for a opportunist like Galloway. Much though I support the message he is pushing now I believe it to be little more than the posturing of a failed politician. His nauseating and sycophantic support over the years for the fallen dictatorship in Iraq suggests to me that it an unlikely convert to peace and human rights. It is disturbing that he appears to have taken over the peace movement.

I have voted Labour in every General and European and local election since 1982 but will not vote for them again until they ditch Blair and his shameful imperialist policies, so yes the Iraq invasion and occupation will have a direct impact on how I cast my vote. I will probably vote for the Liberal Democrats.

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New Labour espouses privatisation and war. New Labour has adopted the language of bullying: "Naming and Shaming" and "Not negotiable" are their favoured terms...and the policies are no better than the language.

I can understand ppl voting for the the Greens, Lib Dems or RESPECT in desperation but really this is not good enough is it? (I am not at all sure that a Labour Party purged of Blair is the answer either.)

The BNP (to give one example) cites Labours betrayal of the white working class. and you can imagine people turning to them in despair as well. (Although Nick Cohen in the Observer today suggests UKIP could be a bigger threat in the long run)

Enough of despair. Who is offering hope?

The Trade Unions made Labour and they can create a new force and in time a new party. A number of unions are discussing freeing their funds. (The political funds are usually tied to backing Labour candidates only) In the short term this enables them to back community or socialist candidates but in the long run I think they need to grasp the nettle and create a new broad-based party to oppose privatisation and war, to ditch the language of bullies and to represent the community.

Edited by derekmcmillan
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