Monday

18th Mar 2019

Centre-left not set for major gains in EU poll

  • The European parliament launched its June election campaign last month (Photo: European Parliament - Audiovisual Unit)

The economic crisis is not expected to result in a major swing to the left in the European elections, new statistics predict, while the nature of the European Parliament is expected to be changed by an increase in eastern European politicians in the biggest political group.

A new website, using national opinion polls and previous European election results, suggests that the group spread in the EU parliament will remain largely the same after June, with the centre-right EPP in the lead, followed by the socialists and the liberals.

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

Concretely, the EPP is expected to clock in with 249 seats (down from 288), the socialists 209 seats (down from 217) and the liberals 87 seats (down from 100 seats), with the overall parliament downsizing to 736 MEPs from the current 785-strong house.

Presenting the research on Tuesday (7 April), Professor Simon Hix, a political scientist at the London School of Economics, said that while the combined forces of the centre-right are currently larger than the combined forces of the centre-left, "in the new parliament the centre-left and the centre-right will be evenly balanced."

Some socialists have suggested that the ongoing economic crisis, largely seen as being the result of laissez-faire right wing policies, would see them cash in at the ballot boxes in June.

However, the research suggests this will not happen due to the predicted results in the EU's six largest member states – Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Spain and Poland, accounting for 56 percent of the seats in the parliament – where the centre-left is "not expected to do well."

Less of the protest vote

The prediction means the centre-right will continue to top the results despite the announced defection of the British Conservatives (27 MEPs) to form another party.

Eurosceptic and far-right parties are not expected to profit from the economic discontent among EU citizens, either, and are set to retain their current number of seats (about 45).

Meanwhile, Libertas, a pan-European Party campaigning against the Lisbon Treaty, is not expected to gain any seats with citizens voting on issues closer to home, such as the effects of recession.

"That protest [vote] is going to different parties. Five years ago, it seemed to go more to the anti-Europeans," said the political scientist.

"The economic crisis is making this even more of a national election than usual as voters look to their governments and ask ‘how are you going to address this economic crisis?'"

As a whole, the London professor predicted that the "progressive bloc" – in reference to issues such as immigration and the environment - in the parliament would be "slightly bigger" while the economically liberal bloc would be "slightly smaller."

Changing influence of eastern MEPs

Inside the parliament, the politics between groups and MEPs is to be shaken up however. This is due in part to the fact that the EPP is expected to be "a lot less German and a lot more Polish" something that "may change the colour or nature of politics in the EPP."

Currently, MEPs from the new member states are "marginalised" according to the academic, and do not hold many positions of power in the EU assembly, such as committee chairs.

Another factor shaking up the way the parliament works is the likely formation of a new group, the European Conservatives, by the British Conservatives. It is expected to host the Czech Civic Democrats and some of the parties of the nationalist UEN group, which is not expected to survive after June.

The European Conservatives are expected to be the fourth biggest group in the parliament with 58 seats, followed by the leftist GUE group with 48 seats (up from the current 41), the Greens with 39 seats (down from 43) while the current eurosceptic Independence/Democracy group is also expected to fizzle out after June, getting only 17 seats, less than the threshold needed to form a political group.

Professor Hix, whose research with Professor Michael Marsh from Trinity College Dublin was commissioned by PR firm Burson-Marsteller, admitted that predicting elections is a "pretty mad thing to do" and noted that if the average turnout is much lower than in previous years (it reached a low of 45.47% in 2004) "everything is up for grabs" and his predictions could "change enormously."

A significantly higher turnout, meanwhile, will likely mean governing parties will do better.

The research has already come in for criticism. The UK Independence Party said the figures are "skewed and based on false data" while the Party of Europea Socialists said it was "too early" to make predictions about the vote outcome and insisted its aim is to be the biggest group in the parliament.

Opinion

My plan for defending rule of law in EU

EPP leader and prospective next EU Commission president Manfred Weber spells out his plan for dealing with recalcitrant EU member states - ahead of Wednesday's EPP meeting on the vexed issue of Hungary's Viktor Orban and Fidesz.

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.

Agenda

Brexit delay and Orban decision This WEEK

EU leaders will discuss whether to allow London to delay its exit from the bloc, as some are worried it would mean more of the same. Meantime, the European People's Party braces itself for a showdown with Hungary's Orban.

Opinion

EU must get real on Russia

The EU must call the Ukraine conflict by its true name - Russia's illegal war on its peaceful neighbour - and take commensurate action to protect peace in Europe.

News in Brief

  1. Blow for May as third vote on Brexit deal ruled out
  2. Three killed in possible 'terror' gun attack in Utrecht
  3. Third Brexit vote this week only if DUP will support it
  4. Germany's two largest banks confirm merger talks
  5. Serbian pro-democracy protests reach 15th week
  6. 'Yellow Vest' riots leave Paris shops vandalised
  7. European woman older when having first baby
  8. Majority of Germans want Merkel to stay on

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 Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  3. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  6. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  11. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  12. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  2. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  5. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us