Thursday

21st Feb 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 18 year's of archives. 30 days 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."

Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table

EU probes into Hungary and Poland on rule of law and democracy are back on the agenda of EU affairs ministers - but with little guidance from the Romanian presidency, without a clear idea where the procedures are headed.

Calls for Tajani's resignation over Slovenia, Croatia row

The European Parliament's Italian president referred to Croatia and Slovenia as former Italian regions at the weekend, sparking outrage. Although Antonio Tajani apologised, somer former leaders and MEPs are now calling for his resignation.

MEPs call on EU countries to deal with Hungary

MEPs who launched a procedure examining the democratic situation in Hungary last year now want member states to step up efforts. The government in Budapest meanwhile accuses MEPs of attacking Hungary over migration.

Analysis

France and Germany hope to revive EU with Aachen treaty

In the face of attacks on the liberal world order and the EU, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron renew German-Franco cooperation - but their lack of political capital prevents bold visions or ambitious goals.

Opinion

Italy will keep blinking in 2019

Italy's 'marriage of convenience' coalition government likes picking battles with Brussels. But with the economy now in recession, and deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini needing to keep the business lobby on board, expect Rome to blink first.

Opinion

The test for Sweden's new government

While the formation of a new government ends Sweden's fourth-month paralysis, it doesn't resolve the challenge from radical-right populists in Sweden. A key question remains: will treating populists like pariahs undercut the appeal of their, often anti-rights, politics?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. EU commission appeals Dieselgate ruling
  2. 'No burning crisis' on migrant arrivals, EU agency says
  3. 'No evidence' ECB bond-buying helped euro economy
  4. Juncker: Orban should leave Europe's centre-right
  5. College of Europe alumni ask rector to cut Saudi ties
  6. EU says Hungary's anti-Juncker campaign is fake news
  7. Trump right for once: Europe should take back foreign fighters
  8. EU should clarify rules for plant burgers and lab meat

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us