Strengthening Europe’s Limited Power

PARIS – The results of last weekend’s European Parliament election are as puzzling as they are shocking. No single theory accounts for the variety of national results.

In Germany, where European Union policies have been highly controversial since 2008, the electoral campaign was remarkably colorless. But in France, where neither financial assistance nor the European Central Bank’s initiatives to combat the crisis incited disagreement, anti-EU themes were prominent.

Neither economic variables, like GDP growth, nor social variables, such as unemployment, explain why Italy voted en masse for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s center-left Democratic Party, while France endorsed Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front.

Among surplus countries, Euroskeptics proved strong in Austria but weak in Germany. Among crisis countries, Greece turned to Alexis Tsipras’s far-left Syriza coalition, while the former dominant parties, New Democracy and Pasok, jointly gained less than one-third of the popular vote. But in Portugal, the traditional parties’ dominance was not challenged.