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Right-Wing surge? – A glimpse into the new EU Parliament

It is Tuesday evening and there are only a few more hours go until the Netherlands opens the 2019 European elections. In cooperation with Euronews, the 35 Europe Elects team members have been crunching numbers for weeks to present you with our best estimate on what to expect for the European Parliament election.

While our projection is constantly updated with all available polls, it takes on average 60 hours for our team to process and compute the hundreds of incoming polls. Hence, the results presented in this article date back to Saturday. We firmly believe, however, that our methodology and number crunching peer-reviewed by 35 polling experts from across the continent is the best EU projection data you can get. In particular, our experts have kept a close eye on (and often communicated with) relevant national parties to assess which group in the European Parliament they will join. Hence, our projection is unique in that it aligns these new parties with the existing families, rather than as an amorphous “new parties” group.

So, let us look at the numbers available today. The centre-right European People’s Party with spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber is likely to remain the largest group in the European Parliament (EPP). Our 80% confidence interval shows that we should expect a result somewhere between 168 and 180 seats. This is significantly lower than in the 2014 election, where the EPP received 221 out of 751 seats. Our best guess pinpoints the EPP currently at 173 seats, which is five seats below the result we projected in the last week for Euronews.

The centre-left S&D group will most likely come second again, with somewhere between 133 and 158 seats in the European Parliament. Our best estimate puts them at 152, one seat less than in the previous week. This number is significantly lower than what S&D took in 2014 when the Social Democrats and Socialists secured 186 seats. As such, this is shaping up to be a bruising election for the two main political forces in the European Parliament.

On the other hand, the liberal ALDE group (which is on course to be reshaped after the EU election – we will address the new group as ALDE+ for convenience) will make significant gains. While the ALDE group received 68 seats in 2014, we are now projecting an outcome of 98 to 117 seats (with 80% certainty). Our best prediction for ALDE+ is today 109 seats, up from 104 in the last week. It is the highest level which has been measured for the liberals since July 2018, and just below their record high of 112 seats in April and May 2018. About half of the 40 seats gained compared to 2014 come from Emmanuel Macron’s “Renaissance list” for the EU election, which is closely connected to his centrist LREM party. As for the variation in the previous week, it is attributed to gains by the Liberal Democrats in Great Britain, which are now projected to get nine seats, and the liberal party of the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland SFP, which is now projected to get one seat.

Matteo Salvini’s right-wing EAPN group would currently guarantee somewhere between 73 and 88 seats. Our best guess puts his group at 82 seats – just like in the previous week. The order of EPP – S&D – ALDE and ENF/EAPN is reasonable to assume from a statistical perspective. However, if major national parties like the Hungarian EPP party Fidesz (12 seats) or the Romanian centre-left PSD (9 seats) decide to switch their group affiliation, this order could be affected. The shifts would most likely benefit either ALDE+ or, even more so, Salvini and disadvantage EPP and S&D.

The order is less clear among smaller groups. The national-conservative ECR group with spitzenkandidat Jan Zahradil has the best chances to come out on top amongst them. We see the group below their 2014 results (76 seats). ECR is projected to gain, with an 80% probability, 49-65 seats. Our best estimate puts them at 59 seats, two seats lower than the previous week. The losses can be explained by the poor performance of the ailing “Conservative Party” in Britain. The party faces its worst election result in history after failing to deliver a Brexit deal which manages to satisfy more than 10% of the British electorate.

Greens/EFA fought its way back from the electoral abyss. In June 2017, we projected only 23 seats for the Greens and regionalist parties. This number would have meant the end of the group, as the European Parliament requires at least 25 seats from 7 different EU member states. Nevertheless, the Greens/EFA has been rising ever since. Currently, we project a result of between 46 and 59 seats – pretty much on the same level 2014 (52 seats). Our best guess is currently 54 seats, almost stable with last week’s 55 seats. The Greens and progressive regionalists profit from the shift of topics dominating the election campaign: away from the issue of migration towards climate change.

The left-wing GUE/NGL group is also hovering around their 2014 election result. In 2014, the group achieved to occupy 52 seats, this time it will be somewhere between 44 and 54 seats. Our best estimate puts them at 51 seats, just one seat below last week.

The EFDD members have announced that they will leave the group after the election. They have not been welcomed by other groups or were unable to set up new groups so far. Hence, it remains a bit unclear what will happen to the 53 seats which we currently project for the different EFDD members. The strongest party among them is the British Brexit Party under Nigel Farage, with currently 28 seats. The Italian Five Star movement and their allies would receive only 23 seats from three countries.

Thirteen seats would be occupied by parties currently affiliated with the Non-Inscrits in the EU Parliament.  Two of them would go to the Greek Communists, one would go to the hard-right British DUP, three would go to Martin Sonneborn’s satire party Die PARTEI, and the remaining seats would go to different right-wing extremist and Nazi parties from Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, and Slovakia.

Another five seats would go to the Pirates. The pirate parties have told Europe Elects that they will either join the Greens/EFA or the ALDE+ group in the European Parliament.

As we approach the date(s) of the election, our projection site will now feature hourly updates with the latest polling for the European Parliament.

Our next projection article with updated numbers and new insights will be published tomorrow. We will take a specific look at what to expect for the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, which will be heading to the polls on Thursday. After this, we are planning to live-update our projection and constantly publish country-specific articles about the member states heading to the polls the following day.

This article was kindly reviewed by our team member Celso Comes before publication.