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EU Parliament Projection: Government Parties Still Gaining

Europe Elects produces a monthly projection on how voters in the European Union would vote, should there be an EU Parliament election today. When comparing the seats and the popular vote projected in this article, we contrasted them to the EU27 scenario of the European Parliament election 2019—meaning we excluded the United Kingdom.

The Corona pandemic has affected European voting behaviour—mostly in favour of incumbent governments—but how can it be explained? Electoral science emphasizes that voters tend to support their government if they feel like they are attacked from the outside. Terrorism, Brexit, trade wars, violent conflict with (perceived) external aggressors, and pandemics tend to increase voter support for government parties. Europe Elects earlier gathered data from across the continent that underlines that the Coronavirus pandemic in Europe also triggers this electoral reflex. This favours Europe’s incumbent national government parties, most of which are organized in EPP and S&D. 

Our projection for the development of polling trends in April 2020 shows that the centre-right EPP Group in the European Parliament would remain the largest bloc in the assembly if there was an EU Parliament election today, with 193 seats out of 705 post-Brexit and a popular vote share of 25.3%. In the EU election last May—discounting the United Kingdom and adding the post-Brexit MEPs around the EU—the EPP finished with 187 of seats and a popular vote share of 22.6%. The current level of support for centre-right parties in Europe is the highest since November 2017. In the past four weeks, the rise for the EPP has mainly been driven by the CDU/CSU alliance in Germany (+2 seats compared to Europe Elects’ March projection), the Spanish PP (+3), and the Austrian ÖVP (+2). The Romanian PNL (EPP) – despite being in government – counteracts this trend by losing two seats compared to our March projection. 

The centre-left S&D would come second with 140 out of 705 seats and 18.5% of the popular vote. This would be 8 seats and 0.4 percentage points less in the popular vote than in the 2019 election—again discounting the UK and adding the post-Brexit MEPs. The S&D Group hosts Socialist and Social Democratic parties like the German SPD and the Swedish Social Democrats (S) in the EU Parliament from across the continent. While Europe’s centre-left grapples with the dusk of social democracy in the wider west, they also moderately profit from voters “rallying ‘round the flag” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Swedish Social Democrats increase their projected vote share in comparison with the previous month by two seats.

Trailing the two frontrunner groups by some margin, the third biggest European Parliamentary group in our February’s projection is the liberal RE Group with 94 seats, down from 97 seats in the 2019 EU election sans the UK. In terms of vote shares, the RE Group receives 10.9% in our projection. That is 1.4 percentage points less than in the EU election last year. Much of the recent losses for RE this month can be attributed to the fact that Italia Viva (IV) dropped from four seats in our February polling average to below the four-percent-electoral threshold for European elections in Italy. The RE Group hosts political parties such as the French LREM, the Dutch VVD, and the German FDP. While no fresh polls have been recorded for LREM in April, President Marcon’s (LREM-RE) approval rating has seen a sharp but fluctuating rise during the Coronavirus pandemic. This might work as a soft indicator that RE is doing better than projected. Compared to the previous month, the Dutch VVD and the Romanian A2020 stand out most, each gaining two projected seats.

Europe Elects’ projection of seats of European Parliament in April 2020

The ID Group in the European Parliament—including figures like Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini—is projected to get 78 out of 705 seats, a vote share of 11.4% and be the fourth largest European Parliamentary group should there be an EU election today. This is two seats and 0.2 percentage points more than in the EU election minus the UK and adding the post-Brexit MEPs. Election systems around the continent seem to produce unfavourable results for the ID, as they would receive 16 seats less with a vote share that is 0.5 points higher than their counterpart RE

The  ECR Group is projected to get 72 seats should an EU election be held now. The group—which amongst others includes the Polish PiS and the Italian Fratelli d’Italia (FdI)—received 62 seats in the pre-Brexit 2019 EU election, discounting the UK and distributing the post-Brexit MEPs. Across the EU, the national parties affiliated with the ECR Group have a combined EU popular vote share of 9.8% in April, which is 1.7 points above ECR’s 2019 election result. The rise of the group has been driven by the rally-around-the-flag-effects in favour of the Polish government party PiS (ECR) and a resilient growth over the past months of Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia (FdI-ECR). The growth of the Spanish VOX has come to a sudden end over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. In comparison with March, the party is projected to lose two seats. This loss is made up by Domovinski pokret Miroslava Škore (DPMŠ) from Croatia who told Europe Elects in April that they intend to join the ECR Group in the EU Parliament. Hence, we shifted DPMŠ from the “unaffiliated” category to ECR. This adds two seats to the projected ECR bucket.

The left-wing GUE/NGL is projected to be the sixth-largest bloc in the European Parliament, should there be an election today, rather clearly behind the five biggest groups. The Europe Elects April projection predicts the group would receive 55 out of 705 seats, up from 40 in the EU election 2019 sans the UK. In the popular vote projection, the party stands at 8.2%, up from 7.0% in the 2019 election. 

Greens/EFA was the fifth-largest parliamentary group in the European election in May 2019 without the UK but has since slid to the seventh position. In terms of seats, Green/EFA decreases from 68 seats and 11.5% in the election night to only 46 MEPs and 7.2% in Europe Elects’ April projection. The “Green wave” of the European election continues to cool off, combined with the effect of green parties doing generally better in European elections compared to national ones. This trend has been accelerated by the Coronavirus pandemic, which has pushed climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and environmental degradation off the newspaper front pages for the time being.

The Non-Inscrits—those parties left without a parliamentary group—would send 23 MEPs with a 3.9% vote share in the popular vote to the European Parliament with April’s projection. New unaffiliated parties would receive four seats with a 4.7% vote share in the popular vote. 

Disproportionate or sometimes opposite developments in the popular vote share and the seat projection can be explained with the slight disproportionality of the electoral system for the European Parliament.

Visit our European Parliament projection site for a more in-depth overview and the methodology behind the monthly projection.