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25th Mar 2019

Liberals still EP kingmakers, study says

  • Liberal MEPs are most likely to be on the winning side in European Parliament votes, according to a new study (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Liberal MEPs remain the ‘kingmakers’ in deciding close votes in the European Parliament, despite seeing their numbers seriously diminished in last year’s European elections.

Based on analysis of almost 1000 parliamentary votes between July 2014 and June 2015 published on Tuesday (23 June) by Votewatch, the Liberal ALDE group was on the winning side on just over 90 percent of votes in the Parliament, putting them narrowly ahead of the centre-right EPP, the largest group in the assembly, with 87 percent and the Socialist group on 86.8 percent.

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The scores are very similar to the previous EP term.

The Liberal faction was the third largest group in the EU assembly throughout the 1990s and 2000s, and has consistently been viewed as the party group most likely to provide a majority on issues when the EPP and Socialists disagree.

But the group, led by former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, was relegated to fourth position behind the European Conservative and Reformist group, a collection of moderate eurosceptics dominated by the UK Conservative party, at last May’s European elections.

The Liberal parties in Germany and the UK were the main casualties as the ALDE group fell from 85 to 70 deputies.

The number-crunching reveals that the liberals were on the winning side in 95 percent of votes on the EU’s budget, and in more than 90 percent of vote on development, justice and civil liberties and economic and monetary affairs.

Votewatch’s research indicates that ALDE tend to side with the EPP on issues relating to economics, financial regulation and employment but take a more leftist view on environmental and energy policy and data protection.

A fall in support for Europe’s establishment parties, combined with a surge for populist movements of the eurosceptic right and left changed the power dynamics in the parliament.

Neither the centre-right EPP nor the Socialist group, their centre-left rivals, are able to form a majority, leading many observers to predict that German-style ‘grand coalitions’ would become the typical method of achieving majorities.

The data suggests that the Parliament’s three centrist groups dominate decision-making in the 751-member assembly. For their part, the Green group and the ECR voted with the majority on around 60 percent of votes, while the left-wing GUE delegation forms part of a majority position on less than 50 percent of votes.

Votewatch is headed by London School of Economics professor Simon Hix.

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