Europe has enjoyed a period of calm after years of crisis, but a predicted big protest vote in regional elections this week could shake markets out of their complacency.
Polls open Thursday for voters to elect members of the European Parliament, representing 500 million citizens. They’re expected to back protest parties of right and left in greater numbers than ever before.
A backlash against austerity, unemployment, immigration and loss of national power to European institutions could push anti-EU parties to win about 25% of the 751 seats. In some of the 28 countries, they could even secure the biggest share of the vote.
While that won’t derail the region’s recovery in the near term, it could store up future trouble by destabilizing pro-EU governments in some countries and weakening the resolve of others to stick to painful economic reforms.
Growing popularity for fringe parties has drawn comparisons with the emergence of the tea party in the United States, and its ability to disrupt politics from a small base.