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EU elections: Parliament fragmented, under one third of seats to “sovereigns”. Big gains for Orban, League and Le Pen

The press office of the European Parliament has released the projections for the 23-26 May election results, with 90 days to go before polling day and before the election campaigns begin. Losses are projected for the People’s Party and for Socialists and Democrats, while the Liberal Alliance, the Greens and the Left hold their ground. Excellent performances for the sovereign and Eurosceptic political groups, above all the Hungarian Fidesz, the Italian League and the French Rassemblement National. Future majorities in Strasbourg uncertain

L'emiciclo del Parlamento europeo a Strasburgo (foto SIR/Marco Calvarese)

A more fragmented European Parliament without pre-established majorities and with an increased sovereign and Eurosceptic presence, albeit still a minority one, is the picture of the EU Assembly that emerges from the first projections of the May vote, released on Monday 18 February in Brussels by the press office of the EU institution. The projections of the seats are based on national surveys carried out by February 6th by specialized institutes and deemed “reliable”, collected and re-elaborated by the Kantar agency on behalf of the European Parliament. The data covers the entire EU divided by country, and has been published in a 160-page English document. The Parliament will publish updated projections every two weeks until the end of April, and every week during the month of May. The first exit polls will be published on May 26 starting at 6 pm (when in some countries, including Italy, the polls will still be open).

Big groups are down. According to the data released by the EU Parliament, the European People’s Party (EPP) would remain the largest political group in the European Parliament, followed by the Socialists and Democrats. The projections relate to current voting intentions three months away from elections, and before the beginning of actual election campaigns. Of the 705 MEP seats in the next EU Parliament, the EPP would take 183; they currently hold 217. The Socialists and Democrats would have 135 seats (down from 186). The third largest group would be the Liberals with 75 seats (now holding 68). It should be noted that the allocation of seats is based on the groups existing today in the hemicycle, while the new formations that have not yet declared their affiliation are put in the “Others” group: among these, the 20 seats attributed French President Macron’s movement, En Marche.

Gainers and losers. According to current surveys, the fourth largest political group in the future EU Assembly would be the ENF (Europe of Nations and Freedom, the sovereign group): it would gain 59 seats, up from 37, thanks mainly to the growth of the Italian League. In fifth place, the ECR (European Conservatives and Reformists) with 51 MEPs (down from the current 75, it would lose the British Conservatives), followed  by the leftist GUE/NGL, down to 46 seats from 52, and the Greens, down to 45 from 52 seats. The Eurosceptic EFDD (Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy) is the eighth largest group and would gain 2 seats, going from 41 to 43. Ten seats would go to non-affiliated MEPS, while 22 seats would go to new political formations not currently in the groups already present in Strasbourg. Should these results be confirmed, sovereign forces might not win more than one third of the available seats.

What majorities? The slimming course of the traditional parties would raise questions about future majorities in the European Parliament, starting with the majority that will have to elect the future President of the EU Commission. A convergence between the EPP, the Socialists and Democrats and the Liberals might be anticipated, perhaps with the support of the Greens, or the pro-European forces. A majority composed of the EPP, Conservatives and Eurosceptic groups is less probable but cannot be dismissed a priori.

The Italian seats. Moving on to the analysis of national projections, Italy and Hungary would be confirmed the most sovereign and Eurosceptic of the 27 Eu member States. The League would be the first party in Strasbourg with 27 seats (out of a total of 76 Italian MEPs) and 32.4% of the votes. The 5-Star Movement would take second place with 22 seats and 25.7% of the vote – no surprise given the recent opinion polls – followed by the Democratic Party with 15 seats (17.3%). Forza Italia would win 8.7% of the vote and 7 seats, while Fratelli d’Italia would be the only other party to exceed the minimum 4% threshold, with 4.4% and 4 seats.

Country by country. In Germany, Angela Merkel’s party would be the country’s largest, with 30% share of the vote. In a surprising second place come the Greens, with 17%. Suffering great losses, the Social Democrats would come in third place with 15% of the vote. In fourth place, the nationalist far-Right Alternative für Deutschland (12%). The sovereign wind is strong in France as well: Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National would jump to 22% followed by Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche with 20%. Massive losses for the Republicans (12%) and even greater ones for the Socialists at 6%. On the other hand, Spain is consistently represented by parties declaring themselves pro-Europe: in first place the Socialists with 25.4%, followed closely by the People’s Party (23.5%), further down Ciudadanos (17.9%) and Podemos in alliance with Izquierda Unida (14.1%). Among other populous EU countries, Poland’s governing Law and Justice party (PIS, founded by the Kaczyński twins) would have 40% of the vote; worthy of note is the electoral performance of the pro-Europe center-right opposition Civic Platform (32.7%). Viktor Orban’s Hungary moves in an even more sovereign direction, as his Fidesz party would take 49.3% of the vote, while the far-right nationalist party Jobbik wins 15.5%.

Group by group. Analysing the results now attributed to European parties, compared to the current legislature the People’s Party would lose 34 MEPs, mostly in Germany, France and Italy. For the Socialists and Democrats the outcome would be even worse with a loss of 51 seats, also here mostly in Italy, Germany and France. The Liberals gain 7 seats, largely due to good performances in Spain and the Netherlands. The sovereign group ENF would gain 22 seats thanks to the achievements of Le Pen in France and Salvini in Italy. The Conservatives would lose 24 seats: as the British MEPs depart, the majority of the remaining group would be Polish.

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