European elections: So far it’s the pro-Europeans who are set to stage surprises

, by Juuso Järviniemi

European elections: So far it's the pro-Europeans who are set to stage surprises
March for Europe in Rome, 2017. Photo: Les Jeunes Européens - France / Facebook

In the European elections, three countries already finished voting by Friday night: the UK, the Netherlands, and Ireland. The official results will only be publicised on Sunday after all countries have voted, but early indications suggest that in these countries, it’s not nationalists who are overperforming. Rather, it seems that it’s pro-European parties that have staged surprises in the first days of voting.

Thursday and Friday show that positive surprises on election day are possible, and especially the British case displays the importance of turnout. A look at early indications form the elections in the three first countries.

Netherlands: Exit polls suggest victory for Timmermans’ Labour

In the Netherlands on Thursday, exit polls predicted a surprising victory for the Labour Party, sitting with the S&D group in the European Parliament and represented by the Spitzenkandidat Frans Timmermans. According to the Ipsos poll, the once nearly moribund Labour would almost double its vote share from 9% to 18%, win the elections and increase its presence from 3 to 5 seats.

Before the elections, Labour was only predicted to come third after Mark Rutte’s centre-right VVD and after Thierry Baudet’s nationalists. Now, the Ipsos exit poll suggests Baudet’s Democracy Forum would only be coming fourth, trailing both VVD and the Christian Democrats. However, the difference between Christian Democrats and the nationalists is within the poll’s 2% margin of error.

Greens the big winners in Ireland

In Ireland on Friday, the Greens made the headlines, as exit polls suggested the party has a chance to win up to three of the 13 seats Ireland is to have if Brexit happens. In 2014, the Greens failed to win any seats, but this year especially Ciaran Cuffe, the Green candidate who seems set to come out on top in the four-seat Dublin constituency, will most likely be sent to Brussels.

In the simultaneous local elections, the Greens are predicted to increase their vote share from below 2% to around 9%. Finally, on the same day, Ireland voted overwhelmingly to change its constitution to relax the requirements for applying for divorce.

The UK: The Brexit Party is the likely winner, but...

In the outright bizarre European elections of Brexit Britain on Thursday, the main news story of the day was #DeniedMyVote: hundreds of EU nationals were reported to have been turned away from polling stations because election officials had not processed voter registrations in a timely way, or because communication about the requirements for registering to vote in the UK as an EU national were not adequately communicated. The Electoral Commission pointed to the short notice for organising the elections amid British political chaos. Critics blamed the government for not tackling the administrative confusion earlier, despite several warnings. The UK government will likely be sued for the misconduct in the elections.

The likely winners of the elections are Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. However, it is possible that high turnout figures in pro-European areas mitigate the Brexiteers’ victory in the elections. Early indications suggest that turnout was higher in Remain-voting areas than in Leave-voting areas. Compared to the 2014 elections, turnout is expected to increase. This increase also mainly seems to be because of Remain-voting areas being better at increasing their participation rate. The results night on Sunday will show whether these observations translate to stronger-than-expected support for pro-EU parties such as the Liberal Democrats and Greens.

A vote can make a difference

Though none of these polls or estimates is a final result, the message from the first days of voting is clear: voting matters. Pro-Europeans can do much better than expected if ordinary, EU-friendly people mobilise better than last time. Let us ensure that Sunday can be a day of celebration!

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