There have been various speculations about the results of the vote and the makeup of the groups in the elections over the past few months, with many European leaders calling for the people to take part for the perpetuation of the life of the bloc. This is indicative of the significance of the elections.
Ninth elections significance
Some 400 million European citizens are eligible to cast their vote in three-day elections to determine 751 seats, together with the Britain’s. This year’s vote is important because of a strong competition, the rise of right-wing politics, and the Brexit.
Manfred Weber of Germany’s Christian Democratic Union party in a press conference said that they will be before a decisive election for the Continent on May 26.
Since 2014, the politics in Hungary, Poland, Italy, parts of Germany, and France changed in favor of the rightists. So, this year can see the growth of their number in the European Parliament. If they dominate, very likely the Union’s life will be short.
The main topics of debate before the election were the environmental changes and migration. In addition to the small parties, 9 major parties have joined the race. Germany with 96 seats, France with 74, Italy and Britain each with 73, and Spain with 54 are the major players in the Parliament.
These parties are very different from the traditional conservative parties. The conservatives insist on commitment to the rule of law and are easy on the migration to the Continent. Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist under Trump, spent the past year struggling to unite the ranks of the right-wing politics. He especially focused on Italy, calling Rome the center of modern politics. The rightists are joining the race under Europe of Nations and Freedom alliance, containing Austria’s freedom party, Italy’s Lega Nord party, and France’s National Front. A couple of days before the elections, the right-wingers of 11 EU countries met in Milan, Italy. As it was expected, Lega Nord, led by Matteo Salvini, deputy prime minister and interior minister of Italy, became the leader of the European rightists. Alternative for Germany (AFD) and National Front were the key participants of the gathering. These parties’ slogans are largely anti-Islamic, Eurosceptic, and against the migration.
A set of issues may undermine the alliance:
1. Recent financial scandal of Heinz-Christian Strache, the leader of Austria’s Freedom Party, has heavily rocked the populist camp in the country. He declined to attend the Milan meeting and instead sent a representative.
2. The US meddling in the EU parliamentary vote will trigger popular reactions including breaking with the populist camp.
Salvini delivered vaguely-worded speech in a bid to reduce the backlash against the populist camp. He said that they wanted to reform Europe without destroying it. “We seek deep changes”, he was quoted as saying.
3. Despite their coordinated populist slogans, the right-wing parties across Europe have different economic strategies. They work hard for a maximum seats win. Their social media pages have some 32 million followers, with 67 million comments and likes just a day before the election. The liked material is mainly against the migration and policies of moderate and democratic governments. The polls predict they can win 67 seats in this election, up from 41 seats of the past election. Their win may not give them majority but they will very likely be among the four major factions of the Parliament. If so, they can put obstacles ahead of the EU’s currently-implemented laws and policies.
European People’s Party (EPP)
The European People’s Party currently holds the majority in the Parliament with 217 seats. The party seeks to strengthen EU, counter racism, boost international organizations, and settle the migration crisis in its origin. But the “Yellow vests” protests in France, the rise of rightist politics in Italy and a couple of other countries set up challenges in the face of the party.
Still, a set of factors can underpin the party’s success:
1. France and Germany, still led by the moderates, are its key members. The two countries are leading in the bloc and that is what attracts further votes to the party. Despite France’s crisis, predictions suggest that the party will have acceptable votes in 17 countries. Polls note that at worst the party can win 23 percent and at best 29 percent of the votes. Either way, it will get the majority over its rivals.
2. The bitter experience of right-wing politics that sparked the Second World War is yet to be forgotten by the people’s historical memory. The people reacted to Germany-Italian hardliners’ unity in Milan calling them fascists and asking them to leave Italy.
A poll conducted by the European Parliament in 28 member states showed that 62 percent of the participants were in favor the EU existence. 68 percent, the poll suggested, believed that their countries benefited from the EU membership. So, having in mind that the ninth election is a fight for EU survival, many people are expected to vote for pro-EU parties.
4. The EPP very well understands the negative consequences of the EU pressuring of such indebted members like Greece and Italy, where populism rose in response. In its campaign, the party has tried to mend its policies in hope for further votes. Still, polls show that it will lose about 30 seats compared to the past elections, though it will remain leading with over 185 seats. If in Britain the rightists lose, the EPP votes will increase.
The Brexit has sent the moderate left, or the socialists, in a serious challenge. In national elections in Poland, Germany, France, and Italy, the moderate left witnessed decrease in its popularity.
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party, led by the French President Immanuel Macron, is an important party that is expected to win further votes. It is expected to add 10 seats, reaching 74.
The European Conservatives and Reformists alliance, comprised of Britain’s Labor Party and Law and Justice Party of Poland, is the third largest European Parliament’s bloc. But with regard to the British exit from the EU and the Polish tendency to the hardline right, this party will very likely lose seats.
The European Free Alliance is the next in ranking. In the previous election, it won 7 percent of the seats.
What can change the polls results is the participation percentage. In the previous election, the turnout was 43 percent, but this year’s election may see a rise in the turnout rate with regard to intensified rivalry and campaigning. Still, there is room for surprising results as the turnout rates differ from a country to the other.