The country’s youngest-ever Chancellor officially became it’s shortest-serving, and the first since the war to be brought down by a vote of no-confidence on Monday. Already headed for snap elections in the fall, the move was largely seen as necessary by the newly-enlarged opposition to avoid giving Sebastian Kurz an advantage. If Austrians were cross with Kurz, they sure didn’t show it on Sunday. His People’s Party (ÖVP) gained two seats, at the expense of his now-former coalition partners, the Freedom Party (FPÖ), and Greens.
The populist Vlaams Belang were big winners, in Europe and nationally, in Belgium’s Super Sunday. The separatist New Flemish Alliance took heavy losses in the country’s federal election, yet remained the largest party in Parliament. Mainstream parties— left, right, and center, in Flanders and Wallonia— all lost seats. Belgian politicians may get a chance to break their own record for longest time without a functioning government. It may take some creative matchmaking to keep the Flemish nationalists out.
Call it a May Surprise. Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen received some unexpectedly good news on Sunday, ahead of general elections next week. His Liberal Party gained seats, instead of losing them, and beat the Social Democrats. Meanwhile, the nationalist Danish People’s Party collapsed to just one seat, from four. Currently trailing the Social Democrats in the polls, Sunday might just be a reversal of fortune for Rasmussen and the Liberals.
Alexis Tsipras called Sunday a vote of confidence in his government and the far-left Syriza Party. They held their own in Europe, but their dismal display down ballot convinced the Prime Minister to head to early general elections. The center-right New Democracy party leapfrogged Syriza and gained two seats. “The sun is rising over a brighter Greece,” said ND’s Kyriakos Mitsotakis after the vote. “One that has suffered a lot but found the strength to change.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s center-right Fine Gael party had a fine weekend, winding up with as many seats as they sent to Europe five years ago. Local elections were disappointing, however, and overshadowed by a bizarre scandal involving one of his fellow TD’s and a swing. Varadkar opened up the possibility of early elections as well, hoping to win an overall majority before Brexit. Nearly a century after the civil war, Irish voters still vote as they shot; Varadkar and centrist Fianna Fail govern together in an uneasy truce.
Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini was the big winner here Sunday, sparking headlines around the world, and at least a little awkwardness among his senior coalition partners. His nationalist League easily became Italy’s biggest party Sunday, with a 23-seat gain, leaving the center-left Democrats, and populist Five Star Movement in the dust. Salvini’s unexpectedly strong showing might convince him to pull the plug on the Italian government, and trigger a snap election.
The conservative Law and Justice party smashed the opposition, easily gaining seats, and putting itself in a very strong position for re-election in the fall. PiS won over 45% of the vote Sunday, its best result in an election of any kind. An ALDE-S&D mix, the European Coalition, came in a distant second. Voter turnout was also the highest of Poland’s four European elections, which pleased the country’s de facto ruler, Jaroslaw Kaczynski. “The final battle for the future of this country is this fall,” he told his supporters. “And we have to win.”
Voters queued up in front of embassies and consulates, in Europe and all over the world, to send the embattled Social Democrats a thumping defeat. The PSD is awash in scandal, and suspended by the S&D group over rule of law concerns. Things only got worse on Monday, as PSD leader Liviu Dragnea was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for corruption. A coalition of pro-Europe Conservatives and Liberals surrounded the PSD, and gained a combined eight seats.
This election, you might’ve heard, was all about Brexit. Voters largely ignored the heretofore two major parties, and made their feelings on the all-consuming topic of British politics known: 29 seats for the Brexit Party, 29 seats for Remainers. Labour, the Conservatives, and the Democratic Unionist Party, between them, shared just 15 seats. The big story, of course, was Nigel Farage. Some six weeks after engineering his own exit from the UK Independence Party, Farage’s Brexit Party topped the polls. The fiercely Remain Liberal Democrats came in second, at 16, with Remainer Green and nationalist parties adding another 13. Farage didn’t take long to make his future political intentions known either: if the Tories call an election before Britain is scheduled to leave in October, the Brexit Party will field candidates.