Changes in European party affiliations look set to shake up the European Parliament

, by Noah Wheatley

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Changes in European party affiliations look set to shake up the European Parliament
Photograph: © European Union 2018 - European Parliament

Europe Elects regularly monitors polling data from across Europe, and constructs seats projections for next year’s European Parliament elections on the basis of polling data at the national level. Noah Wheatley, Head of Denmark and UK for Europe Elects, comments on the most recent polling data.

EPP holds firm again but still projected to lose seats

In this latest projection by Europe Elects, the EPP look set to remain the largest party in the European Parliament. Despite the projection predicting that they are set lose 32 seats, the EPP can look forward to winning the Commission presidency again these elections, with 185 seats. Some within the EPP will be put more at ease with Viktor Orbán recently committing to the party. However, this could cause cracks to form within the party, after some have repeatedly called for is removal from it. Also there could be a further straining of relations after the Civil Liberties committee of the EU voted to start a sanction process against Hungary over violations of the rule of law and a beach of civil liberties by the government of Hungary.

S&D look set to stick in second

These are troubling times for the S&D. Although they remain the second largest party in the European Parliament with 141 seats, they are projected to lose 48 seats. This is partly due to the loss of Labour MEPs from the UK, but social democratic parties seem to be struggling in most of Europe. This can be seen in Germany, where the SPD experienced a sorry election result. Not all is bad however, as it appears that the Spanish socialist party is experiencing a boost in popularity in the polls, after their leader Pedro Sánchez became Prime Minister in June. Moreover, the Social Democrats in Denmark appear to be holding firm, according to the polls. So it seems that for the S&D to do better at these elections they must look toward these parties to see how they stay popular during these times.

ALDE continue to fly high

ALDE have experienced a growth in popularity in Europe recently which, according to the latest projection from Europe Elects, will result a huge gain of 42 seats in the European Parliament, giving them a total of 110. This could be, in part, due to the growth in support for Ciudadanos in Spain or an increase in support for the FDP, in Germany. On the whole things are looking bright for the ALDE but there still remains the lingering issue on Emmanuel Macron and his LREM. Whether he decides to start his own European group or whether he will choose the ALDE, could be make or break for the ALDE.

Possible boost for ECR but group on course to make losses

The latest projection shows again that the ECR will accrue heavy losses, only managing 44 seats in the European Parliament, down from 73 the previous election. These are worrying times for the ECR who will lose a large number of seats due to the UK Conservatives leaving the Parliament after Brexit.

However, it appears that the traditionally conservative group is looking further afield to try to plug this hole in their party. Only recently has it been announced that a deal has been struck between the ECR and the far-right, anti-immigrant Swedish Democrats. This could be a true boost for the ECR if the Swedish Democrats can perform well in the Swedish election. However, this move has faced criticism, with some suggesting that this could turn the ECR into a more fiercely Eurosceptic party.

GUE/NGL gains fourth place while EFDD looks set to fade away

Europe Elects projects that the left-wing GUE/NGL group will be stronger than the ECR, the ENF and the EFDD. They look to have a total of 58 seats, well ahead of the ECR and EFDD and just ahead of the ENF, who are projected to win 44, 49 and 52 seats respectively.

While things are looking up for GUE/NGL, this cannot be said for EFDD. It appears that they will struggle to exist through the 2019 elections, not due to a loss of seats but parties leaving the group. As was mentioned above, the Sweden Democrats will leave the EFDD and join the ECR, and it seems that EFDD are not a good fit for Luigi Di Maio’s Five Star Movement, who seem more pro-EU than what is suggested. This would mean that EFDD will not meet the minimum requirement of MEPs from 7 EU member states to form a group, spelling the end for them.

ENF surviving

Marine Le Pen’s far-right ENF group look to gain 15 seats, according to this latest projection which predicts that they will win a total of 52, up from 37 in 2014. This is, however, on the basis that ENF is able to collect MEPs from at least 7 countries. The ENF could look to the EFDD bolster their numbers if that group does indeed fall apart. Alternatively, the most right-wing parties of ECR could look to join them, if the group performs badly in 2019. ENF’s spirits will also be raised by the recent surge in the polls of Salvini’s Lega in Italy, whose popularity has grown since Italy formed a new government.

G/EFA to remain in the Parliament

G/EFA group will remain in the Parliament, but will recede to being the smallest group, only winning 34 seats, down 17 from 2014 when they won 51 seats. G/EFA will hope that the German Alliance 90’/The Greens, their largest member, will return their current 11 MEPs to the Parliament. One thing that the Greens can rely on is that they currently have MEPs from 13 countries, well above the required 7. However, it seems that the main concern of G/EFA in the 2019 elections will be trying limit their losses.

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