The European elections that ended a few days ago have yielded very interesting results from a Sri Lankan point of view. In understanding its effects on Europe and its relevance to a country such as Sri Lanka, it is important to get a grasp of the prevailing European backdrop. These voters have very clearly spoken out and delivered a strong message on what the future of Europe should be, which when properly analyzed seems to carry a message (or a prophecy) on how things could very well turn out to be in Sri Lanka.
Europeans identify themselves and in many occasions, have proven to be the trendsetters of modern civilization. It is fair to say that many political, economical, social and technological customs practised by the world today were formulated in Europe. In that light, over the last two decades Europe quite willingly and genuinely welcomed people from certain parts of the world where atrocities were taking place. In doing so most European countries followed an extremely relaxed migration policy towards asylum seekers. They were welcoming and evermore helpful to these new immigrants in setting up a better life in Europe and even gave them access to the most advanced social benefit systems the world had seen. However, traditional Europeans are questioning the success of the integration levels of these vast migrant groups. Cultural incompatibilities as well as unwillingness by some groups to amalgamate with the shared values in the region seem to mount pressure on its very stable equilibrium. Another issue evident in the European backdrop is the administrative inactivity in addressing environmental issues. In a few occasions where strong economies refused to support policies that may have resulted in lessening global pollution, the reaction by Europe was viewed to be poor by its citizens. The elections that just ended were the chance for the Europeans to have their say about all the prevailing issues eating into the close-knit unity that Europe seemed to maintain well for so long.
And they had a say indeed. In the turn out alone, there was a clear increase from 43% to 51% compared to the last elections held five years ago. In fact the turn out was the highest in 20 years, which alone speaks volumes on their determination for change. Traditionally the center-right and center-left based parties held the power base of the European parliament where their combined majority carried enough supremacy on the policy decisions that shaped Europe. Interestingly, this is not the same case anymore. People have clearly increased their support for smaller parties. Mainly towards the liberals, greens and the nationalists, breaking the dominance enjoyed by the two center based parties.
What does all this mean? The liberals believe in the traditional values Europe is built upon. They believe in maintaining the unity of Europe and the openness of its culture. That being said, even the ALDE party (Alliance of liberals and democrats for Europe) had the following stated in their manifesto issued in 2018 “In its current state, the EU asylum and migration system is no longer fit for purpose. We need a new common European response, based on a long- term vision.” The motivation behind the voters who supported the liberals was in protecting the European values whilst addressing the current migration issues.
"The voters who backed the ‘green wave’ that did well from Germany to Portugal and in the Nordicregions are predicted to be mostly of a younger age group. Their main concern is the future health of the planet"
The voters who backed the ‘green wave’ that did well from Germany to Portugal and in the Nordicregions are predicted to be mostly of a younger age group. Their main concern is the future health of the planet. They want to see a change in the currant policies pertaining to deforestation, carbon taxation, renewable energy sources, green friendly agriculture etc. The nationalist voters main concern was immigration. These parties were highly critical of the very disorganied and disadvantages migration polices Europe seem to be following. The message was clearly understood and welcomed by many voters, especially in Italy, Hungary and France.
The case in France carries a few interesting qualities. The current President Emmanuel Macron came to power in 2017 by a sizable margin defeating his rival Marine Le Pen who is a strong advocate of anti-immigration policies and argue that multiculturalism has failed in Europe. Macron was viewed and accepted by the people of France as a warrior capable of shaping the future of the entire region. That was only two years ago. Presidents will remain as heroes if they deliver only. The sizable margin he gained has now reduced to an embarrassing 1%, showing how fast the popularity of the French president had depreciated. Sound familiar?
Apart from the above trends, the case of Britain was unique. The very recently formed ‘Brexit Party’ headed by Nigel Farage gained 32% of the votes. It was an immediate response for a very long and lagging question that England is craving an answer for.
So what does this all mean to Sri Lanka. Actually a great deal when analyzing the state of the island and what needs to be done. Traditionally, the power base of Sri Lanka is controlled by two main parties. The coalitions they form with smaller parties have always proven to be a mere win-win agreement designed only to secure the sceptre with in their grips. Even after the recent tragic unfoldings, clearly the priority of the power base has shifted to maintaining its supremacy when it should be about addressing the issue of the non-compliant groups refusing to integrate with the cultural fabric of Sri Lanka (which was the main reason for the Easter Sunday attacks). To make matters worse, loads of asylum seekers had been brought into Sri Lanka and some are settled inside protected nature reserves by deforestation. As much as the Sri Lankan media establishments reported this to the public, no one thus far has been found responsible. And how a bankrupt government who cannot afford to take care of its own citizens, barely keeping its head above the water by means of selling the countries ports, airports and natural assets afford to take care of asylum seekers is baffling all Sri Lankans.
As in Europe, the Sri Lankans are bitterly disappointed with the status quo. Just like the English, they need a window that enables them to vent their immediate frustrations. The cowardly game of party politics and the greed for votes has clearly undermined the core cultural components of the entire country. Furthermore, the fungus of corruption that has grown a thick layer over the entire administrative apparatus poses a threat to the well-being of future generations of the country. Hence, it could be predicted that record numbers of voters will be turning up in the upcoming elections determined to see change. The public will rally around an anti establishment notion as they did in Europe, to do away with the major power basses giving rise to new forces who will shape a system that represents the people (and not the politicians). As much as I fear that it could be too late for Sri Lanka, lets be positive and hope that its better late than never.