The silver lining of this European elections is certainly the increased turnout. SOLIDAR like other European civil society organisations and networks had written into the campaign #ThistimeImvoting and we supported our members through mobilization materials for 2 major reasons: on one hand we wanted to support efforts to overcome indifference and on the other hand we wanted to mobilise for a progressive vote against the anti-European and new fascist dangers in too many EU countries.
It will certainly be exciting to follow the negotiations on who will become the next Commission President. It is good news that the extreme right will not be able to block institutional processes at EU level, however, these forces feel encouraged by their results in France, Flanders and Hungary for example. Democratic and progressive parties will discuss how to regain voters and may miss the essential question: how to regain the trust in democracy? How can it be that in Flanders, which has quite full employment and is a rich part of Belgium nationalists and right extreme have quite a majority of votes? How can it be that in spite of large structural investments in Eastern Germany following the reunification the right extreme so called Alternative is becoming the strongest political forces? What about the ignorance of large part of voters in some new member states where the turnout remains under 30%? Not to forget Austria which has seen the Ibiza scandal and where the coalition of ÖVP and FPÖ does not loose voters, but are reconfirmed.
It is not for the first time that we have to state that democracy is under threat although still, a huge majority believe in the EU. However, the believe in democracy as the best societal system is eroding. Something is changing in our societies which goes beyond electoral results: fragmentation through raising inequalities leads to confrontations, individualism nourishes egoism and undermines the ideas of sharing and of solidarity. The fear factor and anger against whomever and whatever are polluting the public sphere. Classical media who have been intimidated by the far right (“liers”) and are now used by them as fire accelerator for their fake news and provocation. And the climate change issue brought back on the agenda through the Friday for Future movement is in the end also a fear factor and statements like “we cannot trust politicians as they have done nothing” is an expression of mistrust and simply wrong. Who will dare to say it a times of a popular movement?
Regaining voters and rethinking campaigning is not enough. It is about how to rebuild a social network not only in the sense of social protection schemes but in the sense of social relations, democratic confrontation and search for consensus. How to build a democratic society? In this sense we shall continue to be interlocutors for the European institutions, but after all our main task is to contribute through our networks to anchor the fundamental and democratic, progressive values in our societies! The social challenge to come in the sense of sustainable democracy!
Statement by Conny Reuter, SOLIDAR Secretary General