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May 27, 2014

Anti-establishment parties shake up European elections


Anti-establishment political parties won historic victories in recent European parliamentary elections, shocking the European Union’s (E.U.) traditional political establishment.

In Great Britain, Denmark and France, far-right parties running on anti-immigration and anti-Europe platforms beat out their more moderate competition.

In Paris, the party once shunned by the political establishment as a freak show on the fringes of national politics, celebrated an unexpected victory.

“They cannot ignore the lessons of this ballot and its incredible rejection of the Socialist Party in power, but also of the entire so-called traditional political class,” said National Front Party leader Marine Le Pen.

However in Greece, which was hit particularly hard by the 2008 financial crisis, the leftist Syriza party rode to victory on an anti-austerity, anti-Germany platform. Germany, which is Europe’s largest economy, has been the primary funder of Greece’s bailout and recovery, causing worries that Berlin has too much power over Greece’s internal affairs.

“This is a historic day for our people,” said Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras. “They have made a clear and brave verdict that despite the unprecedented propaganda of fear, they condemned…the policies of the bailout, and for the first time in history, it raised the left to first place.”

French president Francois Hollande called an emergency Cabinet meeting to respond to the election results. It will be up to him and his newly appointed prime minister to figure out a way to stop further political losses for their ruling Socialist party.

Warm up questions
  1. What political parties do we have in the United States? Are they complete opposites of each other, or do they share some of the same beliefs? Can you think of any issues that bring the different parties together?
  2. Do you think that the same parties exist in Europe? Why or why not? Do you think that they share some of the same beliefs as political parties in the U.S., or do you think they have totally different problems?
  3. What effect has the global economic recession had on politics in the United States and other countries?
Discussion questions
  1. What explains the unexpected results of these elections? What message might the electorate have been trying to send to their government?
  2. What kind of impact do you think these elections will have on how the countries are run? Specifically, what might happen to immigration policy in France?
Writing prompt

The world is more connected than ever because of technology, including means of communication and travel. Make an argument that it is more important than ever for the people and government of the United States to be aware of the political climate in Europe. Choose three strong arguments to convince your reader, making sure to use evidence from the text and video.

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