EU elections 2019 – an overview
NOTE: Everything is accurate at the time of writing but subject to change in the coming months.
As the class of 2019-24 take their seats in the hemicycle for the first official week of the 9thEuropean Parliament, we are all likely very well familiar with the European results for Scotland and the rest of the UK; but what about the results from the European Union as a whole? In this article, I will attempt to concisely explain the results from across Europe.
In the run-up to the elections, Europe’s far-right and populist political leaders foretold of great gains for Eurosceptic parties. So did a wave of anti-Europeanism sweep across the continent as they had hoped for? Well, not exactly. While we did not witness a wave, they have made a sizable drop in the ocean. In Britain, we of course have seen the success of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, winning 29 of the UK’s 73 seats; though this was to be expected. In Belgium, Vlaams Belang(VB) increased its vote to 11.7% (3 of 21 seats). In France, Marine Le Pen’s rebranded Rassemblement national(formerly the Front national) narrowly beat French President Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche!winning 22 of 74 seats. In Italy, Lega Nord(LN)and Movimento 5 Stelle(S5M)received a combined 51.4% vote share (34% + 17.1%) winning 42 of 73 (28 + 14) seats possible.
In Poland the governing party Prawo i Sprawiedliwość(PiS) got 45%, winning 26 of 51 seats. The greatest gain was made by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz, winning 52.3% of the popular vote (13 of 21 seats), beating opposition party Demokratikus Koalícióby 36% (vote share 16.2%, resulting in just 4 seats).
There too was a rise in support for green parties, particularly in Western Europe, dubbed the “Green Wave”. In Germany, Bündnis 90/Die Grünenfor the first time overtook the centre-left Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands(SPD) to become the second party(20.5% with 21 seats). GroenLinks(GL) in the Netherlands increased their vote share by 4% (6.9% to 10.9%), gaining a third seat. In Denmark, Socialistisk Folkeparti(SF) won back its 2 seats after losing one in 2014, increasing their vote share by 2.2% (13.2%). Despite the gains of the Brexit Party down South, the Green Party of England and Walestoo made great gains of 11.7% (7 seats). We see the same in France, despite the results for Rassemblement national, Europe Écologie Les Verts(EELV) made gains of 13.5% (12 seats). In Ireland, the Green Party - Comhaontas Glassignificantly increased their vote to 11.4%, winning back their 2 seats which they lost all the way back in 1999.
As a result, The Greens/European Free Alliance(Greens/EFA) parliamentary group – made up of Greens, Pirates, Independents, and progressive parties representing stateless nations, regions and disadvantaged minorities in Europe, such as the SNP– nowstands at 74 MEPs, becoming the fourth largest grouping in the parliament. The bloc is comprised of the European Green Party(EGP), European Free Alliance(EFA), European Pirate Party(PPEU), and Volt Europa.
Taking a moment to look at Spain, it was a good night for Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, as hisPartido Socialista Obrero Español/Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya(PSOE/PSC) won with 32.9% (20 seats) and beat former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s Partido Popular(PP)by 12.7% (20.15% resulting in 12 seats).
For our friends in EFA there were good results. Our sister party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya(ERC) retained 2 seats, the Junts per Catalunya(JxCat)coalition gained 2 seatsand EH Bildufrom the Basque Country gained 1 seat. In Galicia however, Bloque Nacionalista Galego(BNG)lost its only MEP, Ana Miranda. Ahead of the election ERC, EH Bildu and BNG stood together in a united grouping “Ahora Repúblicas(AR)”. Following the results of the election we have seen Toni Comín (JxCat), Carles Puigdemont (JxCat) and Oriol Junqueras (ERC; EFA Spitzenkandidat) barred from entering the European Parliament and more recently have had their seats declared “Vacant”. This is because the Spanish electoral authority has declared MEP-elects must be officially registered in-country, something the three exiled Catalans cannot do while the absolute certainty of being detained arrested and imprisoned looms over them. The European Court of Justice is currently reviewing their cases, however until a decision is made the MEPs will be refused entry to sit in the hemicycle with their Greens/EFA colleagues.
While some politicians and commentators claim that the results of European elections do not influence the domestic political agenda, this is far from reality. Within hours of the results from Greece, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called a snap general election after his SYRIZAparty lost seats to opposition party Nea Dimokratia.
There is also the matter of Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche!losing to Rassemblement national. Macron’s leadership is already in question due to his mishandling of the “Gilet Jaune” (Yellow vest movement), and with recent opinion polls averaging 65% disapproval, the last thing Macron needed was to be seen to lose these elections, and not to his 2017 presidential rival Marine Le Pen of all people.
As of Wednesday 26thJune, the parliamentary groups have been officially registered for the 2019-24 term. So what’s changed and what’s stayed the same?
The Europe of Nations and Freedom(ENF) grouping, joined by newcomer Alternative für Deutschland(AfD) and other parties, have formed the new far-right Eurosceptic parliamentary group, Identity and Democracy(ID) made up of 73 MEPs and now the sixth largest group. Nigel Farage early on confirmed that his Brexit Partywould continue its membership of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy(EFDD) grouping, quashing rumours of a merger with the former ENF to form a unified right-wing Eurosceptic bloc (116 seats).
As many predicted, PiSand Fideszopted not to join either of the Eurosceptic groups, favouring continued membership of the European Conservatives and Reformists(ECR) group.
Along with the ENF, we have seen the unexpected rebranding of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe(ALDE). In a bid to bring Macron’s En Marche!on-board, the centrist group announced via Twitter it would be rebranding as Renew Europe. Macron is rumoured to have demanded this change of name as he sees the term “liberal” as becoming synonymous with “political elite”.
As the parliamentary arithmetic stands, Greens/EFA andRenew Europe now hold the balance of power (75 and 108 MEPs), due to the EPP and Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats(S&D) losing their combined parliamentary majority (182 and 154 MEPs, requiring 376 MEPs for a majority). We also saw the ECR relegated to the fifth group after losing 8 seats (62 MEPs), and the European United Left/Nordic Green Left(GUE/NGL) continuing as the smallest grouping with 41 MEPs, losing 11 seats from 2014.
With the elections over and the parliament in session once more, all eyes now turn to the European Council, where European leaders have to-date been unable to produce a nominee for the role of Commission President. The race for Presidency of the European Commission is far too large a topic to be covered in this article – perhaps another day – but the parliament plays an important role in the process. While the Council (made-up of the elected heads of state from each country) has the responsibility for proposing a Presidential nominee, it is the parliament that ultimately must approve the Council’s nominee, as well as subsequent Commissioners, who will be chosen by the new President.
With the two historical dominant parties losing their majority, it is Renew Europe, Greens/EFA, ECR, ID, EFDD and GUE/NGL that will shape the make-up of the European institutions for the next five years. It is these combined institutions that will negotiate the next phase of Brexit, deal or no-deal, and the accession of an independent Scotland into the European Union.