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This graph gives a visual representation of certain points made in this article.The graph was taken by Corriere della Sera digital edition, Pg 9, 19 April 2019.

European Union’s Parliament Election: What To Expect

Will the moderate groups join forces to continue to pursue a more united and inclusive European Union, or will they run after the right wing populists?

May 12, 2019

This graph gives a visual representation of certain points made in this article.The graph was taken by Corriere della Sera digital edition, Pg 9, 19 April 2019.
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The populist phenomena — now present in most countries in the European Union — will not cease to exist with the EU’s 2019 Parliamentary Election. The latest polls suggest that the populist forces may revolutionize the power structure of the EU parliament, but that they will have to compromise by forming an alliance with moderate groups. Let’s look at how and why.
The United Kingdom’s participation in the EU election will give momentum to the Eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group, mainly due to the participation of the recently founded Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage. Based on the most recent YouGov survey, Farage’s party is now polling first at 30 percent. Corbyn’s Labour Party, member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, polls second at 21 percent. While the conservative party, amid Brexit’s chaos and Theresa May’s unstable leadership, lags behind third at 13 percent. Therefore, the 46 seats that will be added to the EU parliament with UK’s participation — from 705 to 751 — will mainly benefit the Eurosceptic EFDD group.
But at the same time, it will also, at least partly, curtail the downward spiral of the S&D, which is expected to receive heavy defeats in several other countries. S&D’s worst defeat will come from the Italian center-left Democratic Party which is now polling at 20 percent. If this result were to be confirmed on election day, it would signify a -20.8 percent from the EU elections in 2014.
In other words, PD lost half of its popularity in just under five years. Another preoccupying defeat for the S&D will come from Germany’s center-left Social Democratic Party, which is currently polling at 17.3 percent, marking a -10 percent loss compared to the 2014 election results. The votes lost by these center-left parties were partly captured by the Five Star Movement and by the Greens. These parties were able to successfully represent the frustration of the radical left-wing electorate who grew disappointed by the center-left’s march toward center-right economic policies. In fact, both the Five Star Movement and the Greens proposed social welfare policies which once belonged to the platform of center-left parties.
The only center-left party that seems to hold its support and may also increase it, is the Socialist Party in Spain, which in the recent Spanish General Election obtained 29 percent of the vote; a 6 percent increase from the 2014 elections. PSOE was able to renew itself with the leadership of a charismatic candidate like Pedro Sanchez who energized the Spanish center-left. However, the expected success of the center-left in Spain, will not be able to cover up for the votes lost by other center-left parties in the EU, and that is why the S&D is expected to drop at least 37 seats in the EU parliament, from 186 to 149.
Things also don’t look good for the European People’s Party, representing center-right European parties. The parties adhering to this group are expected to collect defeats throughout all of Europe, with the only exception being Greece. In France, the Ump Republicains is projected to lose around 7.5 percent of the vote compared to their performance in 2014. In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi’s party, Forza Italia, is projected to go from 16.8 percent to 10.1 percent, crushed by the rise of the right wing populist party Lega Nord. Lega Nord, now in power with another populist party — the Five Star Movement — was able to capture Berlusconi’s center-right electorate by campaigning primarily on cultural issues: from promising to shut down Italian ports in order to avoid African migrants to reach, to vowing for greater flexibility in utilizing firearms for self defence. Lega is projected to be the party, among all Europe, to obtain the greatest increase in votes since the 2014 election: an astonishing jump from 6.2 percent to 31.4 percent. We see the same electoral fluctuations — from center-right parties to populist right wing parties — in Germany and Spain, with the rise of the parties Alternative for Germany and Vox respectively. In Hungary, we don’t see this specific electoral fluctuation because Orban’s Fidesz was able to renew itself before any new right wing populist party could rise. Fidesz successfully transformed its liberal center-right policies against communists, into populist right wing propaganda. By doing so, they were able to keep their high consensus amongst Hungarians and are now polling first at 51.5 percent. Although Orban is campaigning on a purely right wing populist platform — similar to Lega’s in Italy or Vox’s in Spain — he nevertheless chose to stick with the EPP for the upcoming elections, instead of joining the better suited Europe of Nations and Freedom. Some experts hypothesize that this is a strategic move by Orban, who is already in contact with populist right wing parties of the ENF to form a post-vote alliance. If this alliance were to happen, it would break the European parliament’s decade long majority coalition between the S&D and EPP. The center-right, guided by Orban’s leadership, would ally itself with ENF’s right wing populists rather than forming a moderate alliance with the S&D. The EU would have, for the first time ever, a populist group in its parliamentary majority coalition. With such an alliance, we can expect more calls for national sovereignty amongst EU countries, making the utopian goal of a ‘United States of Europe’ even further out of reach. Furthermore, the risk of such an alliance is that, in the long run, the EPP electorate could completely disappear: the far righters would be attracted by the more aggressive ENF, which can increase its support quickly by campaigning on controversial cultural issues rather than complex economic issues. While the moderate EPP electorate could end up in abstentionism, not having a proper representation for their beliefs. We saw this happen on a national scale in Italy, where the center right Forza Italia, after forming a national coalition with Matteo Salvini’s Lega Nord, lost half of its electorate to Salvini’s party in just under 4 years.
The only way to avoid the aforementioned ENF-EPP alliance is for the EPP and the S&D to take into account smaller liberal parties such as the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, which is projected to obtain 76 seats, primarily due to the growth of Ciudadanos, a liberal independent party in Spain. ALDE, together with EPP and S&D should have just enough seats to secure a majority in the EU parliament and avoid the bugbear of a populist group in power. However, at least on the national level, this alliance seems improbable. In Spain, Ciudadanos refused to hold discussions to form a governing coalition with PSOE’s leader; while in Italy, the independent +Europa — member of ALDE — refused to create a joint list for the EU parliament election with PD, having judged their proposals as “not Euro-centric enough”.
Will the moderate groups unite to continue to pursue a more united and inclusive EU, or will they let the EPP run after the right wing populists? Watch out on the 26th of May.
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