The Euro­pean Rev­e­la­tion

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

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - OPINION - By Man­abhrana

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. 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.

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