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EU Parliamentary Projection: The Right-Wing in Retreat

Donald Trump has lost the US Presidential election, with many swing states having certified their respective results. The political earthquake of an incumbent President of the most powerful country in the world losing an election—as the polls had long suggested—seems to have ripple effects across the Atlantic on parties such as Italian Lega Nord (ID) and the AfD (ID) in Germany. The upward trend of such parties has, at least temporarily, halted. But even beyond Trump there are indicators that the right has reached, for now, a zenith.

Europe’s political right organises overwhelmingly around two major EU Parliament groups: The ID Group on the one hand, which includes figures like Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini; and the ECR Group around the Polish government party PiS and the Swedish Democrats.

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

Europe Elects’ projection offers quantitative data to understand how strong that decline of the right in Europe is. The monthly estimate, for example, shows how voters in the European Union would vote, should there be an EU Parliament election today. When comparing seats and popular vote projected to the election result in this article, we contrast them to the EU27 scenario—meaning we exclude the United Kingdom. 

Our November 2020 projection shows that the right-wing ID Group in the European Parliament continues to decline amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The right-wing Le Pen-Salvini axis is projected to get 73 out of 705 seats, a vote share of 10.5% and be the fourth largest European Parliamentary group if there was an EU election today. This is three seats and 0.7 percentage points less than in the EU election 2019, minus the UK and adding the post-Brexit MEPs. The downward trend is even more stark when today’s numbers are compared with January 2020 when ID reached 85 seats and 12.9% of the vote EU-wide (excluding the UK). The decline knows prominent examples on the national level: In the Europe Elects polling average, Matteo Salvini’s Lega, for example, achieved 34% during the time of the European election in Italy. Today, that vote share has dropped to 23%. The AfD in Germany has dropped from 13% to 10% during the same timespan. 

The national-conservative ECR Group shows a more positive picture. The group is projected to get 68 seats should an EU election be held now. ECR 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 9.5% in November, which is 1.4 points above ECR’s 2019 election result, though half a point below their February 2020 high. The losses compared to February are mainly driven by the Polish government party PiS, which, over the past six months, has dropped from 45% to 30% in our polling average. Much of these losses have been compensated by the Italian Fratelli d’Italia (FdI). As the party continues to poach voters from Lega, its vote share has risen from 13% in April to now 16%.

On a European level, the vote share of ECR and ID has, comparing EU votes with national parliament and Presidential election polls, moderately risen since the EU election (+0.7 points and 3 seats). The upward trend peaked just before the start of the Coronavirus pandemic on the old continent. Ever since the European right has been in slow retreat, as governing parties have benefitted from the rallying around the flag effect that has taken place in much of Europe during 2020.

The development of Europe Elects’ projection of seats of European Parliament.

This seems to benefit the centre-right EPP Group in the European Parliament, which would again remain the largest bloc in the assembly if there was an EU Parliament election today, with 195 out of 705 post-Brexit seats and a popular vote share of 24.8%. In the EU election in May 2019—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 centre-left S&D would come second with 136 out of 705 seats and 18.5% of the popular vote. This would be 12 seats and 0.4 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. 

Trailing the two frontrunners by some margin, the third biggest European Parliamentary group in our November projection is the liberal RE Group with 95 seats, which is two seats less than compared to what the group achieved in the 2019 EU election sans the UK. In terms of vote shares, the RE Group receives 10.9% in our projection, a 1.4 point drop compared to the EU election 2019.

With this level of support for EPP, S&D, and RE, the European Commission of Ursula von der Leyen would continue to hold a comfortable majority of 426 out of 705 seats.

The development of Europe Elects’ projection of popular vote in the EU.

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. Europe Elects’ November 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 group stands at 8.2%, up from 7.0% in the 2019 election. GUE/NGL stands out as the group that has increased their projected seats most since the 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, Greens/EFA decreased from 68 seats and 11.5% in the election night to only 48 MEPs and 7.7% in Europe Elects’ November projection. The decrease is the largest one of the groups compared to the election and most probably comes as a disappointment for the parties affiliated with the group. The Greens’ vote share, however, tends to be  underestimated marginally in European Parliament projections extrapolated from national polling.

The Non-Inscrits—those parties left without a parliamentary group in the European Parliament—would send 23 MEPs with a 3.8% vote share in the popular vote to the European Parliament. 12 seats would go to unaffiliated parties that have no relationship to the groups mentioned before. This includes three seats for the ITN (Bulgaria) and eight seats for Polska 2050. Europe Elects is in process of examining which groups in the EU Parliament these parties intend to join. 

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

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.