European Interest

EU elections to see emergence of eurosceptic forces

Flickr/European Parliament/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Due to Brexit, the new parliament will have 705 seats, down from the current 751.

The upcoming European Parliamentary elections in May could result in victory for eurosceptic populists even though mainstream political groups are likely to maintain their majority, according to opinion polls.

As reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP), forces loyal to Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and far-right French politician Marine Le Pen will make gains, according to an analysis of national opinion polls put together by the parliament.

The European People’s Party, which is usually described as a centre-right conservative group but also including MEPs from populist Hungarian premier Viktor Orbán‘s party, is also on course to remain the biggest voting bloc.

And, with the Socialists and Democrats as the second force, the traditional parties of the centre will remain the largest in the new parliament.

The survey forecast that the EPP will lose 34 seats and the Socialists 51 seats but retain 183 seats and 135 seats respectively.

The results of polls also suggest that the liberal group ALDE will move from fourth to third place with a projected 75 seats, compared to 68 today.

According to AFP, ALDE is likely to displace the European Conservatives and Reformist (ECR) Group, which will see its share decline from 75 to 51 seats, with the departure of Britain’s pro-Brexit Conservatives. Poland’s eurosceptic Law and Justice (PiS) Party also belongs to the ECR.

What is more, the liberal group could even, according to the polls, increase its representation to 93 seats if it is joined, whether formally or in an alliance, by French President Emmanuel Macron‘s Republic on the Move (LREM) party.

LREM’s expected gains will however come at the expense of established centrist parties, not Le Pen’s National Rally (NR), which the poll average shows will strengthen its position and win 21 seats.

“Contrary to what some have said, the extremes, the nationalists and the populists are far from attaining a majority,” analyst Christine Verger told AFP.

“Even if they increase a little in numbers, this will not fundamentally shake up the internal balance,” said the analyst from the Jacques Delors Institute.

In a separate report, the Guardian noted that the “grand coalition” of centre-right and centre-left that has run the European parliament for 40 years is set to lose its majority for the first time following elections in May, according to the institution’s internal forecasts.

The centre-right European People’s party and centre-left Socialists & Democrats have long called the shots in the EU parliament, but polls suggest the two big groups will win only 45% of seats, down from 53%.

The far-right group Europe of Nations and Freedom, which includes Marine Le Pen’s National Rally and Matteo Salvini’s League party, is set to increase its share of seats from 5% to 8%.

A poll at the weekend for the Belgian newspaper Le Soir put the Greens on course to become the largest party in Belgium’s federal parliament in the elections that will take place on the same day as the European vote.

The world’s ‘biggest’ voting event

The EU election is “one of the biggest democratic exercises anywhere in the world,” with 373 million citizens from 27 EU countries having a chance to vote, parliament spokesman Jaume Duch Guillot told reporters.

The 705 new members of parliament, to be elected in the May 23-26, will help formulate new EU laws over the next five years and choose the successor to Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm.

Of course, due to Brexit, voters from Britain, will not be participating. This is why the new parliament will have 705 seats, down from the current 751.

Explore more