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Same but different: The European Parliament four months on

The European Parliament Elections were less than five months ago, yet a lot has occurred in European politics since then. A new European Commission made up primarily of representatives from the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), centre-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and liberal Renew Europe (RE) parliamentary alliances, has taken shape with Ursula von der Leyen (EPP) as its new President-elect. At the national level, five EU member states have seen their national parliaments reshuffled following elections, two of them as a result of snap elections, and the United Kingdom has been graced with a new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who has intensified the political drama leading up to the official Brexit day on 31 October.

At Europe Elects we are obsessed with polls [editor: but in a cool way], and producing accurate predictions of election outcomes, so naturally we have used our unique methodology to check how EU citizens’ responses to the political developments of the past four months have changed their party political preferences, and how the seats of the EU parliament might be allocated differently if we had all gone to the ballot box on 30 September 2019. It should be noted that while polls asking directly about the European Election are rare, and national polls are plentiful, the projection is based primarily on the latter. You can find a complete outline of our methodology here.

Overall, the power dynamics between the party groups in the EU parliament remain the same in September, with the only possible majority alliance being between EPP, S&D and RE. EPP remains the biggest group, securing around 20% of the popular vote. That being said, there have been some interesting changes in the ranks of the party groups, with the national-conservative European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) passing both the right-wing Identity & Democracy (ID) and the Greens-European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA) to become the fourth most popular.


European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) +25 seats

ECR, the national-conservative party group, has made the most gains in terms of public support since May, as we predict they would gain 25 more seats if the elections were held today.

ECR’s gains need to be seen in the light of the group seeing its seat allocation decline in this year’s EU election, due mainly to the disastrous performance of the British Conservative Party (CON) in what was an extraordinarily volatile British election campaign. Following Boris Johnson’s election as the party’s new leader in July, and his move to make the party’s manifesto more staunchly pro-Brexit, its support in opinion polls has increased significantly, contributing a massive 21 of the gained seats in our projection.

Other parties contributing to the ECR’s gains include Poland’s Law and Justice Party (PiS) (+1) that secured its biggest-ever election win in this month’s election to the Sejm, Brothers of Italy (Fdl) (+1) and Spain’s VOX Party (+1).

Apart from the aforementioned successes, the Dutch ECR-parties have been performing poorly in the polls throughout September; with Forum of Democracy (FvD) projected to have lost one o fits three parliamentary seats, and the Reformed Political Party (SGP) its only one. 

Renew Europe (RE) +10 seats

The second biggest winner, according to our projection, is the liberal party group RE, Renew Europe, which also gained the most seats in May’s elections. These gains are a team effort, with the Free Democratic Party of Germany (FDP), the Dutch People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and the Czech Republic’s ruling party ANO gaining two seats each. Spain’s liberal party, Ciudadanos (Cs), also gains a seat when looking at polls up until 30 September – although it should be noted that its support seems to have plummeted over the past couple of weeks during what is Spain’s second electoral campaign of 2019.

Surprisingly, the only clear loser in our projection is the Liberal Democrats (LD) of the United Kingdom, which loses two seats. This should be seen in the light of its spectacularly high vote share in this spring’s election, where it gained 15 seats to become the country’s second-biggest national party in the EU parliament.

European United Left–Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) +7 seats

According to our projection, the left-wing GUE/NGL group has reclaimed 7 of the 9 seats it lost in May’s election. These fluctuations are largely down to two parties; Unidas Podemos (UP) in Spain and Die Linke in Germany.

Unidas Podemos is an electoral alliance whose dominant party, Podemos, burst onto the scene in 2014, entering the European Parliament less than six months after its launch. In 2019, the alliance’s lost a total of five seats, three of which have now been gained back. Gemany’s Die Linke is projected to have gained back the two seats it lost earlier this year, most likely profiting off of the continued struggles of the country’s Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Identity & Democracy (ID) +6 seats

In June of this year, following the breakdown of the Europe of Nations and Freedom party group, Marine Le Pen of the French National Front announced the creation of the European Parliament’s newest formalised grouping – the right-wing Identity & Democracy (ID). This followed the member parties having increased their combined seat share by 36 in the elections, the second-biggest gain following RE.

Since May, the support in Germany for Alternative for Germany (AfD) and in The Netherlands for the Party for Freedom (PVV) has increased steadily – resulting in both parties being allocated three more seats in our projection compared to the election results. This is especially significant to PVV, that lost all of its four parliamentary seats in the election. The domestic struggles of Lega, the party who got the plurality of Italian votes in May but has seen its polling numbers decrease following an unsuccessful attempt to provoke a national parliamentary election, leads to them losing two seats.


Non-Inscrits (NI) – 24 seats

The grouping in the European Parliament that had seen its projected seat allocation drop the most by the end of September was the Non-Inscrits. Non-Inscrits includes all MEPs that are not aligned with a formalised group, because these MEPs either wanted to remain independent or were not able to secure the 25 seats necessary to create their own European Parliament.

In May, 57 MEPs belonged to this group, of which more than half belonged to the Brexit Party of the United Kingdom, that became the biggest individual party in parliament. As mentioned above, the Conservative Party leadership change has led to a severe decline in polling numbers for the Brexit Party, which is reflected in its 21-seat loss in our projection.  This makes the Five Star Movement of Italy into the group’s biggest individual party, whose successful manoeuvring of the country’s governmental crisis is reflected in a two-seat gain. 

European People’s Party (EPP) -12 seats

As of recent, the centre-right EPP, or the European People’s Party, has benefitted greatly from its dominant position as the largest party in the European Parliament. Its 39-seat loss in this year’s election was bigger than any other party’s, and our projection is that it has lost even more ground since then. However, it is still the most popular party group as it remains around 20 seats ahead of its closest rival, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.

It is not possible to single out one, or even two, parties that have disproportionally contributed to EPP’s decline in this projection, which is rather the result of an overall loss across most of the larger EU-countries, with Poland being the major exception as parties aligned with EPP would currently gain five more seats than the Polish European Coalition (KE) did in May.  The electoral support for the EPP declines the most in Czechia, where the Christian Democratic Union (KDU- ČSL) would currently nab the only EPP-labelled seat, compared to the five that it secured together with Top09 and The Mayors and Independents (STAN) in May.  

Greens–European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA) -12 seats

The Greens in the European Parliament were one of the winners of this May’s elections, becoming the fourth biggest party group, due largely to a ‘green wave’ that has swept through Europe throughout the year. According to our projection, the Europe-wide movement has lost momentum over previous months, however, and would have ended up with 12 seats less if there had been an election by the end of last month.

While the support for green parties in Germany remains stable, we predict that both the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the British Green Parties would lose around 8 seats in a September election. Another major party that’s been trailing in national polls is the Dutch party GroenLinks that we predict would lose at least one of its seats.

(Edited by Euan Healey)

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