26th Oct 2016

Barroso gets boost for a second term

  • Mr Barroso - heading for a second term? (Photo: European Commission)

One of the first reactions to Sunday's European Parliament elections came from the commission president Jose Manuel Barroso. He was closely following the outcome of the elections, which has a direct impact on his chances to secure a second term as head of the European Commission.

"From today onwards, Europe owes it to the voters to show once again that it can deliver", he said, referring to the fact that his commission has been sitting on its hands for the past year awaiting a new mandate.

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Now the road is cleared for EU leaders to task the Portuguese centre-right politician to put a new commission together, when meeting in Brussels next week, 18-19 June.

Not only did his national Portuguese party do very well in the elections, the centre-right forces behind Mr Barroso were also the clear winners of the elections at the European level.

In addition the social democrat opposition, which could have challenged his candidature, came out as the losers and never managed to field a rival candidate.

Europeans turned largely to the centre-right parties in reaction to the economic crisis. Social Democrats were unable to persuade Europeans - under pressure from the economical crisis, unemployment and growing social problems – that they could provide the answers.

27 national elections

The overall result appears however to be more the sum of 27 national elections than that of a real European process. In many countries the poll turned out as a vote of confidence in the sitting national government.

The far-right did really well in some countries like the Netherlands and Austria; in Britain anti-immigrant British National Party got into the European Parliament for the first time, winning two seats. But at the same time Polish voters cleared the table and rejected the far-right.

The Greens have in general had very good elections, while the EU eurosceptics saw mixed results. The UK Independence Party (UKIP), advocating withdrawal from the EU, had its best elections ever scoring more seats than the ruling Labour party, while the Nordic countries ditched the centre-left critical Junemovements.

In Austria took Hans-Peter Martin, an independent campaigning on a transparency ticket, won three seats and came third in the elections. In total the EU critical front has become more rightist.

For Libertas, the new pan-European anti-Lisbon treaty party, the elections turned out to be a failure. The party leader Declan Ganley looks unlikely to win his own seat in the remote Irish North West constituency. His campaign was built on the most modern web- techniques but did not function in the Irish farmland, where politicians are still elected through door-to-door canvassing and direct personal contact.

If Mr Ganley is indeed gone, the second Lisbon Treaty referendum to be held in Ireland in October seems a much easier task for the yes-side. But the apple cart could still be upset by Britain if the ruling labour party of Gordon Brown falls and the opposition conservatives, under pressure from a stronger UKip, take over power before the Lisbon Treaty is approved.

Under the current treaty the European Parliament has influence, but not real power over European law-making. But individual MEPs are sometimes able to grasp real power over important pieces of legislations through personal influence, lobbying and networking.

This election brought a handful of such potential single-cause campaigners into the assembly, such as French investigating judge Eva Joly, who led the inquiry into the Elf oil scandal, as well as the radical sheep-farmer and anti-globalist José Bové and the Pirate Party leader from Sweden.

The turn-out set a new record with just 43,1 percent of the 375 million Europeans entitled to vote going to the polls.

This is the lowest ever since the first European Parliament direct elections in 1999, when 61.99% voted. And it comes despite the millions of tax-payers money spent on publicity campaigns.

Provisional results according to partial returns:

Party 2009 (2004)

European People's Party 263 (288)

European Socialist Group 161 (217)

Alliance of Liberals and Democrats 80 (100)

Group of the Greens/EFA 52 (43)

European United Left-NGL 33 (41)

Union for Europe of the Nations 35 (44)

Independence/Democracy Group 19 (22)

Others 93 (30)

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