In just one month’s time, the citizens of all twenty-eight member states of the European Union (unless the UK leaves “early”) will have the opportunity to vote in our continent’s largest democratic exercise. With the campaigns well underway on the national and transnational level, with parties and their respective spitzenkandidaten attempting to persuade voters to their plan for Europe for the next five years, the polls are hotting up in every member state.
Now the UK’s membership of the European Union is continuing, thanks to a last-minute six-month extension to the Article 50 Brexit process, voters from the United Kingdom will also take part in these elections – a turn of events unexpected, and perhaps unwanted, by both EU and UK governments. This change is not insignificant: with a 73-member delegation, British members could majorly alter the dynamics of the parliament – and our projection suggests they will.
Gap closes between candidates for the commission
In last month’s projection, the centre-right and Christian democratic European People’s Party, led by spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber sat ahead of the field in predicted seats, while the EPP’s current commission partner the Socialists and Democrats sat six percent of seats behind them. This month’s polling (featuring the UK and the knock-on impact that has on seat distribution), the EPP’s lead halves to just three percent of seats.
In the UK, there is no party set to be elected which would sit with the EPP (excluding possibly Change UK (*/EPP) who are currently an unknown force in terms of transnational grouping, , having not responded to Europe Elects’ enquiries), but instead favourable results for the centre-left. The UK Labour Party (S&D) are set to be the largest party delegation from the UK, and their 30 MEPs would also make them the largest member party of the S&D European Parliament group.
Naturally, this fact narrows the gap between the two spitzenkandidaten most likely to get the job of Commission President: Manfred Weber (EPP) and Frans Timmermans (S&D). Our projection now sees the two groups’ 95% confidence interval overlapping, showing that the identity of the next owner of the keys to the commission is far from certain.
Liberal group’s role as potential Kingmaker unchanged
With both the EPP and S&D seeing significant setbacks compared with their 2014 results, the major beneficiary has been the centre-ground liberal Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. The party is set to gain 37 seats on its previous result, down slightly in seat share from last month’s projection. The majority of these gains come from French President Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique En Marche, set to net 20 seats in May’s elections. In addition, ALDE parties in Romania, Germany and Czechia are also set to make significant gains, helping to push ALDE’s group size to three digits.
As no group, or even no two groups, in our projection achieve a majority in the European Parliament alone, a deal will need to be brokered to include a third grouping. With this in mind, ALDE looks likely to be involved in negotiations to form the next commission. As you can see from the visualisation below, the numbers needed to achieve any kind of majority in the European Parliament would require ALDE in every plausible scenario. As a result, ALDE’s leaders will be looking forward to playing a central role in Europe’s (less murderous) Game of Thrones thanks especially to the Jáuregui Report, which stated the commission president does not have to be from the largest europarty.
New right changes dynamic of opposition
Since the announcement in early April that Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini (LEGA) was to form a new right-wing entity in the European Parliament called the European Alliance of Peoples and Nations in the Parliament after the coming elections, the discussion has been heated over what impact this will have on the right of the Parliament. Our projection sees the group, which would absorb all members of the current right-wing ENF group and some from both ECR and EFDD, reach fourth place in the parliament with 85 seats.
While ECR is expected to survive the loss of members such as the Finns Party (PS-ECR), and the Danish People’s Party (O-ECR), the eurosceptic EFDD, however, is set to be forced to dissolve as a group. In order to form a group in the European Parliament, you must have 25 members from at least 7 EU member states (25%). Even including the new UK Brexit Party and the twelve seats they are expected to garner, the group would fall short of the threshold. The remaining members, including the projected 18 MEPs from the Italian M5S, would be forced to find a new home group, or sit as members of the Non-Inscrits. The reasons for EFDD’s demise are complex, and not limited to losing members to Salvini’s new eurosceptic outfit.
With the European Elections still a month away, there’s no doubt that the polls could change. Brexit negotiations, candidate announcements, spitzenkandidaten debates, manifesto launches and much more will see voters access more and more information meaning everything could change between now and when voters go to the polls. Follow Europe Elects on social media and keep an eye on our projection to stay ahead of the curve, and ensure you are ready for election day.
Euan Healey is the Editor-in-Chief of Europe Elects.