22nd Nov 2019

More eurosceptic MEPs to be elected in future, experts predict

  • "The European protest vote will bring more and more eurosceptic parties into the parliament" (Photo: EUobserver)

Contrary to widespread belief, European Parliament elections are not only about national politics but are increasingly used to express discontent with European integration itself, German researchers have suggested.

This could result in ever-more eurosceptic MEPs being elected in the future.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Two political scientists working at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies (MPIfG) in Cologne, in a recent article, challenge the widespread idea that it is mainly domestic considerations which determine how people vote in European elections.

The bulk of political science research has so far suggested that many citizens see EU elections above all as a good opportunity to punish their national governments, implying that European elections are not really about "Europe."

But this picture is incomplete, Philip Manow and Holger Doering write in the 2007-2008 MPIfG yearbook.

The researchers had a detailed look at the "pro-EU" and "contra-EU" positions of the European Parliament as well as national governments since 1979 – the year when the EU assembly was first directly elected by citizens.

They found that on average, governments have gradually become slightly more "pro-EU" over the years. The EU parliament, by contrast, has become more "contra-EU" since the mid-1990s - which means citizens have been electing an increasing number of eurosceptic MEPs.

'European protest vote'

Interpreting these data, the researchers claim that voters are increasingly using European Parliament elections to express dissatisfaction with the EU and with the pro-European attitudes of their national governments.

"Voters have a diffuse feeling that Europe has gone too far and that their national governments have a tendency to accept too much of further European integration," Mr Manow told EUobserver.

"In European Parliament elections, voters feel free to express their preferences. In the [scientific] literature it is assumed that voters simply express their national preferences, but we claim that they increasingly express their European preferences, which they - rightly - feel to be systematically misrepresented by their national governments."

This trend is only likely to continue in the upcoming European elections in 2009 and thereafter, he predicted. "We expect the European Parliament to become more eurosceptic over time, since a European protest vote will bring more and more eurosceptic parties into the parliament."

The fact that French and Dutch voters in 2005 rejected the EU constitution in popular referendums already hinted at this development, Mr Manow argued.

"[The referendums] fully fit the picture of an increased but as of yet not politically represented EU-scepticism. It's only that referenda bring out the populist dissatisfaction with the EU much more purely than the European Parliament elections did so far."

What about turnout?

Mr Manow however admits that his thesis of an ever-more eurosceptic European Parliament still leaves important questions open.

His research does not take into account what is arguably the most important development in European elections over the past decades – the downward trend in voter turnout. Average participation in the EU has been steadily dropping from 63 percent in 1979 to a record-low of 45.6 percent in 2004.

Asked how his findings relate to this trend, he stated "This is a very important, a very good and a very hard to answer question."

MPIfG researchers are currently tackling the issue by looking at individual voter behaviour data. But again, Mr Manow suspects that once again citizens' dissatisfaction with the EU - not with national politics - is the main factor at play.

"Why should voters over the years have felt a continuously decreasing need to use European elections to protest against the poor domestic performance of their national governments?"

"It seems rather plausible that the fact that in many member states, centre-left and centre-right governments have not differed much with respect to their generally pro-European stance, has left many voters wondering why they should vote in European Parliament elections at all."

EPP wants to re-open accession talks with Balkans

An emergency resolution adopted at the European People's Party (EPP) congress in Zagreb calls on the EU Council and member states to take a positive decision on opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania as soon as possible.

Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president

The outgoing president of the EU council, Donald Tusk, is set to be elected as the president of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP). Tusk will have to deal with the final decision over Hungary's ruling Fidesz.

Catalan MEP is 'elected', court advisor says

In a boost for the cause of three Catalan MEPs, the advocate general of the EU Court of Justice has recognised their mandate as elected MEPs - but it is up to the parliament if they should enjoy immunity.

Far-right Vox celebrates, as Spain left without majority

Although the governing Socialists Party (PSOE) won the most seats at Sunday's elections, the political deadlock continues with a deeply-fragmented scenario, in which the far-right Vox party is in a strong position while the centre has become irrelevant.

Can Sunday's election end Spain's endless deadlock?

Uncertainty surrounding this weekend's Spanish election - the fourth in four years - is rising, as polls suggest that the outcome of Sunday's vote could be as inconclusive April's election. Thousands of police are on the streets of Barcelona.

News in Brief

  1. EU parliament votes on new commission next week
  2. Berlusconi wants Europe to be a military global power
  3. Orban ordered to apologise over 'misleading' Soros survey
  4. EPP to decide on expelling Fidesz by end of January
  5. Rowdy anti-corruption protest in Malta
  6. Ambassador: Trump ordered Ukraine election meddling
  7. EU links Libyan government to human trafficking
  8. Greek PM on migration: 'Greece has reached its limits'

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. EPP congress pledges 'moderate' climate solution
  2. EPP wants to re-open accession talks with Balkans
  3. New EU financial instruments needed
  4. Binding measures to expand gender balance
  5. Watershed moment for rule of law in Hong Kong
  6. EU Africa envoy: Europe needs to look beyond migration
  7. New calls for Muscat to resign over journalist's murder
  8. Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us