Saturday

23rd Mar 2019

Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament

  • (Photo: European Parliament)

Italy's anti-migrant and eurosceptic League party, led by interior minister Matteo Salvini, is projected to be the second biggest party in the European Parliament (EP) after this May's election, while the centre-right is to remain the biggest political family, according to polls released by the EU assembly on Monday (18 February).

The League would receive 27 seats in the next parliament, behind Germany's ruling centre-right CDU/CSU party, which is foreseen to send 29 MEPs.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The EP released the figures 100 days ahead of elections, taking place between 23 and 26 May, based on its aggregate of figures by "reliable" national polls.

Overall, the next EP could see a surge of nationalist, populist parties across Europe, while traditional left-right political families are set to become weaker, the polls indicated.

That would reflect recent developments in several member states, such as Austria and Italy, where far-right parties have entered office.

For the first time, the traditional centre-right European People's Party (EPP) and centre-left Social Democrats will lose their absolute majority in the parliament, which will shrink to 705 MEPs from the current 751 due to British lawmakers leaving as a result of Brexit.

The traditional centrist coalition in the parliament, which drives the EU appointments procedure and its legislature will be could be destabilised, as more parties will be needed to form a majority.

It could also spell an end to EPP and S&D politicians dividing the EP presidency among themselves for 2.5 year-long terms, with each term being half as long as the mandate of each parliament.

The EPP is projected to win 183 seats, down from 217 members in the current parliament, but to remain the largest party in the assembly.

The second biggest, the S&D will have 135 seats, down from 186.

Part of the S&D's losses will come from departing members form the British Labour Party.

But the ruling UK Conservative party sits with the anti-federalist European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the parliament, not with the EPP.

Liberals are set to increase their numbers from to 75 MEPs from 68.

Meanwhile, French president Emmanuel Macron's En Marche party is set to win 18 seats, behind Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally (formerly known as the National Front) on 21 seats.

En Marche is not yet being counted among the liberal group in the EP, as Macron has yet to join the European liberal alliance, also known as Alde.

Populist and nationalist parties are going to make gains across the continent, the EP's meta-poll said.

The populist Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group, which currently includes the Five Star Movement and Alternative For Deutschland among its members, along with Nigel Farage, are set to grow from 41 to 43.

Farage used to lead the anti-EU Ukip party, prior to launching his own Brexit Party.

The Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group is also set to increase its numbers from 37 to 59 MEPs.

Currently, the ENF lists Le Pen's party, the Dutch Geert Wilders' Freedom Party, and Salvini's Lega, as well Austria's governing coalition partner, the Freedom Party of Austria, among its members.

The EFDD and ENF together could make up 14.47 percent of the new parliament, but some populists and nationalists, such as MEPs from Hungary's far-right Jobbik party, also come from the ranks of non-attached members.

The ECR group, who call themselves "eurorealists", are projected to get 51 seats, down from 75 MEPs, according to the projection compiled by the EP.

The group also counts Poland's ruling nationalist PiS party, the Belgian Flemish NVA party, the Finnish conservative Finns Party, and the Danish People's Party, among others.

Group leaders decide on the parliament's agenda, make decisions on which parties lead which legislative files, and rule on the composition of parliamentary committees.

Following the elections, populists and nationalists forming strong parliamentary factions can have a tangible influence on the EU's legislative work.

However, the exact composition of groups will only be decided after the election results are in.

Elected MEPs are expected to negotiate the formation of political groups in the next parliament in June.

Turnout

Officially, the mandate for the current parliament will end on 1 July, and the inauguration of the 9th legislature could be on 2 July.

The parliament kept silent on the possible EU-wide turnout of voters at the polls, saying the figures were only available at national level.

Voter turnout at European elections has been decreasing, with just 43 percent of voters showing up at the ballots in 2014.

But parliament officials are confident an increased interest in the EU could translate to more votes being cast.

Meanwhile, the EP is pushing ahead with its "spitzenkandidaten", or "top candidate" procedure, with five European political families having already chosen their lead candidate to spearhead the European campaign for the top job at the European Commission.

The EP insists that the new president of the European Commission, just as in 2014, will have to be the lead candidate of the political group that manages to build the strongest coalition in parliament, arguing that it creates a direct link between European voters and the commission.

European leaders, who have traditionally decided the top EU positions among themselves, insist there is no automatic link between the election results and the commission presidency, however.

The EP aims to hold its official debate for the "top candidates" on 15 May in its Brussels building.

Opinion

How to troll the European Parliament elections

The May 2019 European parliament elections will take place in a context which make a very promising ground for protest votes and extreme views, aided by bots and algorithms.

EPP poised to pick lead candidate, amid struggle over Orban

The EU's largest political family has gathered in Helsinki to chose its lead candidate for the European election next May. They need to take on populists - but are struggling to deal with the 'enfant terrible' within their own ranks.

EUobserved

Campaigning commissioners blur the lines

EU commissioners campaigning for a national post have to take a leave of absence - while those running for an EU job do not. This distinction undermines the effort to close the gap between EU and national politics.

EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party

In a compromise decision, Europe's centre-right grouping stops short of expelling Hungary's ruling party - which has been accused of rolling back democracy and the rule of law.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us