Europe: the trend of “new faces” in politics

Employment and Social Affairs

Politicians from the mainstream center-right and center-left parties have held a comfortable majority in the EU’s principal institutions, however there is a threat that this “era” could come to an end with the next European elections in May 2019. Rising populists on both the radical right and left, and emerging new political players, could change the existing power balance. Traditional European parties, both on the right and left side of the political spectrum are increasingly losing support to newer populist or nationalist parties. It is sure that in the wake of Brexit and the growing dissatisfaction of European voters, populist are gaining ground across the continent. But on the other hand, up to now that pivotal change has never happened in Brussels and Strasbourg.

Many EU countries has already faced the evolution due to populist parties gaining consents: in Italy there is a government driven by Northern League and 5 Stars Movement, in many Eastern European countries the prime minister are characterized by a nationalistic and conservative approach, while in some cases (as for example Slovenia and maybe even in a non-member country as Ukraine) the executive power is in the hand of a person that used to be a comedian actor in the recent past.

All these aspects envisage a trend of radical changes in the European landscape of political parties. The formation of governments with a populistic component is a key trend or threat all over Europe: Italy’s “government of change” has open the doors of this new reality, but Rome executive is driven by a mix of populism and nationalism. And the nationalistic one is a trend more common also in other countries, as is the case of Eastern Europe, namely in Hungary and Poland. It is different indeed the approach of nationalistic leaders, that are for many aspects more similar to traditional parties but that are characterized by more though speeches and stances on many of the most pressing issues. “A politician looks to the elections. A statesman looks to the next generation”, this sentence by Alice De Gasperi, “traditional” centrist Italian politician in the aftermath of the World War II, highlight a phenomenon that always existed in politics but nowadays is exasperated by social media and television that present politician as “Hollywood stars” more than a “State servants”. The use of social media by politicians all over Europe is an element to be considered talking about the change of political parties. They pretend to be closer to common citizens just using the same instrument as a tool to demonstrate that they are transparent, but on the other hand their actions are not always supported by real expertise and knowledge. Furthermore “new politician” pretend to understand the need of poorest citizens, and for this reason employment and social issue occupy a big quota of their electoral programs. But on the other side, again, this stance is not always followed by real expertise and knowledge of the complexity of the matters. It is not to say that “populist” are always less expert of “traditional” politicians, but there is a quite simplistic approach that deserves to be highlighted.

Linked to this phenomenon, is the fact that “new faces” more and more often appears in politics and in some country even comedian actor reach the power. Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Sarec is one of several comedians and actors who have made the transition to politics in recent years. Italian comedian Beppe Grillo founded the 5Star Movement, which is now in power in Italy. And Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comedian with no previous political experience, is the front-runner in Ukraine’s presidential election. “I was delighted that Slovenia is not only the country which is taking that path,” Šarec said in a recent interview for “”. Šarec was at one time a comedian who imitated politicians before he became one. He said not all actors and comedians would make good politicians but some attributes come in handy in both fields. “For acting, for comedy, you must read a lot, you must observe a lot, you must study characters and it’s not so simple,” he said. “In politics you have to have courage, you have to perform, you have to know a lot of things. You must be a quick learner.” In Ukraine the situation reached a quite paradoxical level: a country in war and with big problem with rule of law and corruption could choose a comedian to be the new head of State. Zelenskiy — a young comedian who rose to fame playing a humble schoolteacher who becomes president of Ukraine in the hit television show, “Servant of the People” — appeals to Ukrainians frustrated with the country’s oligarchic elite. It has now strong chances to really become the new president of Ukraine setting a strange precedent that should spark some reflection also in the EU.

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