The Road to Strasbourg (1/2)

, by Alistair Spearing

The Road to Strasbourg (1/2)

Which party will receive the most votes? Who will be the next President of the European Commission? Will the eurosceptics take the European Parliament by storm? In this two-part article, we look at the state of affairs in the different EU Member States with just a few months left until the 2014 European elections.

Austria (18 seats)

There is one party consistently leading the polls and it is the Austrian People’s Party. After coming in second to the Social Democratic Party in last year’s legislative election, the party led by Michael Spindelegger looks set to go one better and take 25% of the vote. The Social Democrats and the Freedom Party are tied at 21.5%, with the Greens floating around 12.5%.

Belgium (21 seats)

Voting patterns could be affected by the fact that the European election will be held on the same day as the Belgian federal and regional elections (a factor which tends to reduce protest votes). Adjusted for the split into Walloon and Flemish parties, expect the New Flemish Alliance to romp home with 20% of the vote, followed by the Socialists with 18%, the Liberals with 17% and the Centrists with 14%.

Bulgaria (17 seats)

The memories of a turbulent 2013 in Bulgarian politics will still be fresh in voters’ minds, damaging the standing of both main parties. Polls consistently reveal a high percentage of undecided voters, in some cases up to 50%, so they should be taken with a pinch of salt. That being said, polls put the centre-right GERB and the Bulgarian Socialist Party neck-and-neck —it is simply too close to call.

Croatia (11 seats)

After just 20.8% of the electorate bothered to vote in the off-year election in 2013 following Croatia’s accession to the EU, boosting turnout should be top of the list. No European polls have been published recently, but national polls put the Social Democrats in front. Remember, though, this is exactly what the polls predicted in 2013... but the Croatian Democratic Union bounced back to claim a razor-thin win.

Cyprus (6 seats)

The 2014 EP election will be the first one after the clumsily handled bail-out that sparked an eruption of anti-Troika sentiment on the island of Aphrodite. Cypriots do not seem to blame President Anastasiades, with polls showing his Democratic Rally party leading the pack with 23.5% of votes, followed by the Communists at 15%, the Democratic Party at 8.2, and the Social Democrats at 4.5%.

Czech Republic (21 seats)

The new Czech government, a three-party coalition of Social Democrats, ANO 2011 and Christian Democrats, is still in its honeymoon period. There are no recent European polls to go on, but polling for the next Czech legislative election suggests that the coalition’s vote is holding up, although populist ANO 2011 could very well supplant the Social Democrats as the biggest party.

Denmark (13 seats)

The ruling Social Democrats have taken a battering in the public arena due to their austerity measures, but the centre-right Venstre (which, curiously enough, means “Left”) has been unable to capitalise on this and still trails them by a small margin. Further down the scoreboard, the People’s Movement against the EU (no prizes for guessing its political alignment) will be seeking to build on its 2009 success.

Estonia (6 seats)

This Baltic state’s pioneering use of Internet voting in the last European election helped boost turnout from 27% in 2005 to almost 44% in 2009. It will be repeating the experience this year and, if it continues to work this well, other countries should take note. No recent polls have been published, although the ruling Centre Party should be able to extend its domestic hegemony to the European level.

Finland (13 seats)

The ruling National Coalition Party faces its first European test since it first became the largest Finnish party in 2011. Polls suggest it will pass with flying colours, winning the election with 22.7%, just ahead of Olli Rehn’s Centre Party, with 21.7%. Other parties set to win seats are the eurosceptic Finns Party ( 17%), the Social Democrats ( 15.4%), the Greens ( 8.1%) and the Left Alliance ( 7.1%).

France (74 seats)

France is shaping up to be one of the main battlegrounds against populism, as the nationalists’ darling, Marine Le Pen, seeks to score a coup by harnessing the protest vote. The main parties’ decision to put “career politicians” at the head of certain party lists sparked a backlash and brought grist to Le Pen’s mill. Recent polls put her National Front in the pole position, with 24% of votes, just ahead of the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement ( 22%). President Hollande’s Socialist Party, meanwhile, continues to flounder in third place (19%).

Germany (96 seats)

After narrowly failing to cross the threshold needed to gain representation in the Bundestag, AfD will try to make amends in an election that is, perhaps, better suited to its political platform. The quirks of the German system mean Merkel’s Bavarian coalition partner will have to take at least 35% of the vote in Bavaria to cross the national threshold. Martin Schulz’s Social Democrats will also be aiming for a good performance to bolster his claim to the Commission Presidency. Polls suggest Merkel’s CDU/CSU will take 42 seats, the Social Democrats 26, the Greens and the Left 10 seats apiece, and the FDP and AfD 4 seats each.

Greece (21 seats)

Greece is still in troubled waters as it sails into its Presidency of the EU. Alexis Tsipras has worked hard to emphasise the rift between his party and the ruling coalition. And, judging from the polls, it is working: SYRIZA is in the lead, with 22% of votes to New Democracy’s 20.8%. More worryingly, Golden Dawn sits in third place with 9.1%. Meanwhile, PASOK ( 4.9%) is just clinging on for dear life.

Hungary (21 seats)

If Viktor Orbán was shaken by the EU’s threats of sanctions for his controversial constitutional reforms, he certainly has not shown it. The Fidesz juggernaut is on course to take close to 60% of the votes. The Socialist Party is a distant second, with 24%. Far-right Jobbik is third, with 14%. Together 2014, a broad coalition formed in opposition to Fidesz, will capture at best a single seat —more proof, if any was needed, of just how lopsided Hungarian politics have become.

Ireland (11 seats)

The Republic has reformed its constituencies since the last European election, with the abolition of the North-West and East ones and the creation of a Midlands–North-West one. No European polls have been published recently, but national ones show centre-right Fine Gael with a significant lead that will probably be reflected in the European election: 30% to Fianna Fail’s 21% and Sinn Féin’s 15%.

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