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EU Parliamentary Projection: Centre-Right, Centre-Left in Tossup for First Place

Europe Elects’ European Parliament projection offers an indication of how voters in the European Union would vote should there be an EU Parliament election today. The timeline of the data presents how the national voting intentions of European citizens have shifted over the course of the pandemic on the EU level on a monthly basis. When comparing seats and the popular vote projected to the 2019 EU election result in this article, we contrast them to the EU27 scenario—meaning we exclude the United Kingdom, which left the EU in January 2020, also from the 2019 election results.

In the latest weeks, much of Europe’s attention has been fixed on Germany’s much anticipated national parliament elections. Voters in Germany headed to the polls to elect a new national parliament and, by that, a new chancellor to succeed Angela Merkel (CDU-EPP) after 16 years in office.

The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) Group is down a single seat compared to last month, with the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) Group quickly closing in on their lead. The centre-left  S&D Group—up a whopping seven seats from last month—is now a mere two projected seats behind the centre-right EPP Group. This is the closest the two groups have been in the Europe Elects Projection since early 2017. In the popular vote projection, both parties stand at 20.3%, the first time since before the 2019 elections the two groups have been head-to-head.

Contrary to the Socialists and Democrats, the Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA) Group saw its support decline with seven projected seats compared to last month’s projection. The Left Group in the European Parliament – GUE/NGL (LEFT) lost two seats, and the right-wing Identity and Democracy (ID) Group one.

The liberal Renew Europe (RE) Group and the national-conservative Europe of Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group gained two seats each, and national parties sitting with the non-grouped MEPs in the European Parliament—the Non-Inscrits—is up one.

The Groups

As has continuously been the case since March 2017, the EPP Group would remain the largest bloc in the assembly if there were to be held EU Parliamentary elections today. But, unlike previous months, the front position is far from certain for the centre-right group this September. EPP Group—with a projected 156 seats and popular vote share of 20.3%—leads the centre-left S&D Group with a mere two seats, significantly less than their ten-seat lead last month, standing at the same exact projected popular vote. 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 seats and a popular vote share of 22.6%. The EPP is only recently recovering from its unprecedented retreat this spring which was, among other things, caused by the Hungarian governing party Fidesz (NI) leaving the group.

Europe Elects’ projection of seats in European Parliament since the last EU election

The centre-left S&D Group comes in a close second place with 154 out of 705 seats and 20.3% of the popular vote, up seven projected seats and 0.6 pp in popular vote. This would result in 1.4 percentage points and six seats more than in the 2019 elections—again discounting the UK and adding the post-Brexit MEPs. The S&D Group’s gain this month is largely carried by the German national parliament election, in which the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD-S&D) became the largest party. The party’s election result translates into 21 projected European Parliamentary seats for the S&D Group, five seats more than what was projected for the SDP last month.

Trailing the two frontrunners by quite some margin is the liberal Renew Europe (RE) Group, comprising the third largest European Parliamentary group in our September projection with 94 seats—three seats less than the group received in the 2019 EU election sans the UK and up two seats from last month’s projection. In terms of popular vote share, the RE Group would receive 12.0% if elections were held today, a 0.3 percentage point drop compared to the 2019 European elections, and 0.4  pp less than in last month’s projection.

With this level of support for the EPP, S&D and RE groups, the European Commission of President Ursula von der Leyen (EPP) would continue to hold a comfortable de facto majority of 404 out of 705 total seats, as these three groups were the ones that voted to confirm the now-incumbent Commission in 2019.

The national-conservative European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group gained two seats compared to last month, now standing at a projected 78 seats, and looks at becoming the fourth-largest group in the European Parliament if elections were held today. In the 2019 EU elections, the group’s members received 62 seats, discounting the UK and distributing the post-Brexit MEPs. Across the EU, national parties affiliated with the ECR have a combined popular vote share of 10.5% in September, up 0.3 pp from last month and 2.4 percentage points above ECR’s 2019 election result.

Our projection shows a minor decrease for the right-wing Identity and Democracy (ID) Group, receiving one projected seat less than last month: 75 seats with 10.3% of the popular vote, a projected vote share 0.3 percentage points lower than last month. Receiving 76 seats with 11.2% of the vote in the 2019 elections, the group peaked at a projected 85 seats in the Europe Elects Projections in January and February 2020. The group received 76 seats in European Parliamentary Election 2019 without the UK.

This September, the LEFT Group is leading the Greens/EFA Group for sixth place. The group receives two projected seats less than last month: 50 projected seats with a vote share of 7.3%, a little above the 7.0% the group’s affiliated parties received in the 2019 EP elections. It has been previously seen, however, that the LEFT Group has been overestimated in opinion polls. In the 2019 European Parliamentary elections, the party received 11 seats less than the voting projection by Europe Elects, as multiple of the group’s parties appeared stronger in polls ahead of the EU election than proved in the actual election result.

The Greens/EFA became the fifth-largest parliamentary group in the European elections in May 2019 discounting the UK, but has since fallen significantly and to seventh place. This would make them the smallest group in the European Parliament if elections were held today. The Greens/EFA Group has decreased from 68 seats and 11.5% in the May 2019 elections to 47 projected seats and 7.2 per cent of the projected vote share in Europe Elects’ September 2021 projection, down from 54 seats and a 7.4% projected popular vote share in August. Despite this, it is worth mentioning that in European Parliamentary projections extrapolated from national polling, the Greens’ vote share has previously proved smaller than the ultimate election results: in 2019, Greens/EFA outdid the Europe Elects projection with 15 seats, proving out to be the biggest upset of the election.

The Non-Inscrits (NI)—those parties and MEPs left without a parliamentary group in the European Parliament—would send 36 MEPs with a 5.3% popular vote share to Brussels. This is one seat and 0.2 percentage points more than last month. The Hungarian Fidesz joined the Non-Inscrits in March, this month contributing 11 seats to the pool of non-grouped MEPs. The Italian Five Star Movement (M5S-NI), whose seven current MEPs sit with the Non-Inscrits, stand at a projected 14 seats if elections were to be held today.

15 seats would go to unaffiliated parties that have no relationship to the groups mentioned previously and are not currently represented in the EU Parliament. This includes eight seats for the centrist Poland 2050 (PL2050-*), four seats for the centrist Bulgarian party There Are Such People (Ima Takûv Narod, ITN-*), and one seat each for the Dutch Farmer–Citizen Movement (BBB-*) and the anti-Coronavirus lockdown Grassroots Democratic Party of Germany (dieBasis-*).

National Developments

It is no secret that the coverage of the German federal elections have taken up a lot of space the past month—both on Europe Elects’ channels as well as in international media—and for good reason. With the EU’s most populous country going to the polls and the country’s leader stepping down after 16 years at the wheel, many questions are still left unanswered even to this day. The centre-left SPD (S&D) coming first in the elections on September 26 has given the party’s Chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz the upper hand as coalition talks are ongoing. But the election results also reveal results of potential significance to the composition of the next European Parliament.

Europe Elects’ projection of popular vote in the EU since the last EU election

If elections to the European Parliament were held today, the largest single party in the parliament, from any and all countries, would be Sholz’s SPD at 26 projected seats—up from 21 last month. For the first time they would lead the French right-wing National Rally (RN-ID) which has for multiple consecutive months been projected to be the largest party in the European Parliament, at 25 seats.

Likewise, the SPD’s main competitor, the centre-right Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU-EPP) saw its support rise, going from 17 projected seats last month to 19 in September, as they saw a last-minute resurgence of support ahead of the federal elections. Together with the five seats projected for the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU-EPP)—with whom they form the CDU/CSU sister party alliance—the two parties trail the Social Democrats by two projected seats.

On the other hand, we have the German Alliance ‘90/The Greens (Grüne-Greens/EFA) and the left-wing Linke (LEFT) both losing seats this month. For a brief period this spring, Grüne polled first in the German polls, but ended up third in this month’s elections. The 14.8% of the list vote the party received translates into 15 projected seats in the European Parliament—down three from last month’s 18 seats projected. Linke lost two seats compared to last month, now standing at five projected seats.

In Italy, the Brothers of Italy of the national-conservative ECR Group continue to narrowly lead the field in a virtual three-way dead heat for first place in the Europe Elects polling average with 20.3%, followed by the right-wing Lega (ID) at 19.6% and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD-S&D) at 19.1%. The party received 6 of the 76 Italian post-Brexit seats in the European Parliament at the 2019 elections. If elections were held this month, the party would receive 18 seats.

Donald Tusk brought with him a flood of support as he assumed the leadership of the Polish leading opposition party, the Civic Platform (PO-EPP) for the second time in his career in July, having previously chaired the party that he co-founded between 2003 and 2014. Jumping from the multiple-year low of 16.4% in the end of May to 26.7% in the early weeks of August in the Europe Elects average with its PO-led Civic Coalition (KO-EPP)—the alliance’s best result since August 2020—the Coalition has since fallen slightly again, to 25.3%. This result would translate into 14 chairs in Brussels, one less than was projected for the Polish liberal conservatives last month.

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 explanation of the methodology behind the monthly projection.