So pretty much all of the incumbent parties got whacked, amidst predicted low turnout. The BBC has nitty gritty from all 25 member states. There isn’t an overview page, so the link goes to Poland, largest of the new members.
The SLD government there fell, by design, the day after Poland was admitted to the EU, and the parliament is still deciding whether to ratify the caretaker government or embark on an extended interregnum and early elections. The upshot is that the former governing party, the SLD (who are also former communists), placed fourth behind two parties I can’t find profiles of and a populist-to-wacko bunch called Self-Defense (Samoobrona, for those of you who like things in the original).*
Anyway, the parties across the continent largely have themselves to blame for the turnout. With a seat in Brussels largely viewed as a sidetrack or a retirement post, the parties don’t put their A team on the MEP election lists. Voters react accordingly.
In Germany, for example, people rise through the state legislatures and/or the national parliament. For ambitious politicians, the road to power runs either through a state capital or through Berlin. People in Brussels are largely out of sight and out of mind.
That there is real power in Brussels is not lost on German politicians or civil servants. As a result, in addition to the German embassy, every state has its own representative office in Brussels. But the rising stars of party politics do not see time in the European Parliament as a stepping stone to success, or even as a pinnacle in itself.
Another use of Brussels is as pasture for not-quite-retired or otherwise inconvenient politicians. There’s a little kerfluffle in Germany right now because of a suggestion that Bavaria’s current premier, Edmund Stoiber, would be an ideal candidate for President of the European Commission. He lost the election for Chancellor in 2002, and kicking him upstairs would be very convenient for other party leaders who want to run for Germany’s top office. And even though this case involves the Commission rather than the Parliament, the principle is the same: off to Brussels, out of national politics. (Stoiber isn’t having any of it, and is stirring the waters on other issues as well; hence the kerfluffle.)
If the parties were to make better use of the European Parliament, to nominate rising stars and to open career paths that led through Brussels into national cabinets, voters would probably pay a bit more attention. As it is, though, they can either use Brussels as a sidetrack and stockyard or they can complain about public disinterest. Doing both is dishonest.
* First place went to Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska) and second to Liga Polskich Rodzin, which, at a guess, I would say translates as League of Polish Families. I used to know my way around the fissiparous ecology of right-of-center Polish parties, but no more. I would put PO at more center than right, while LPR is almost certainly further right, with clerical-nationalist overtones. Wait a little while, though, and the parties will probably re-form, rather like Italian cabinets in the old days.