After a long campaign, the new composition of the European Parliament has finally been revealed. Participation throughout the European Union has been historic and therefore reinforces the legitimacy of the results. Indeed, more than one in two citizens of voting age has gone to the polls. The vote marks the decline of the two main parties that have dominated the European Parliament’s hemicycle for decades: the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Social Democrats (S&D). Eurosceptics made gains but not enough to seize control of the Parliament, while the Liberals and the Greens have been strengthened. The result of these elections and the organization of the 751 seats is decisive. Indeed, it will shape the debates in the committees and majorly influence the discussions to fill the EU’s top positions.
It is therefore necessary to analyze the main trends of these results and to identify which national parties are likely to join the different political groups of the European Parliament.
The disappointing results of traditional leading parties
For the first time since 1979, the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) have lost their absolute majority in the European Parliament (EP). Compared to the previous legislature, the EPP lost about 40 seats – from 221 to 178 – and the S&D lost around 41 seats – from 191 to 152. These results will significantly affect the formation of the EP and will most likely be of a great consequence in parliamentary committees and debates in the hemicycle. The drop in the number of EPP members is linked to the weak results of some of its national member parties notably in Italy, Germany, and Spain. In spite of this, the EPP will most likely be able to count on the support of the elected representatives of PNL (Romania), FI (Italy), FIDESZ + KDNP (Hungary), FG (Ireland), Les Republicans (France), PP (Spain), and CDU-CSU (Germany). On the other hand, the declining representation of the S&D can be partly explained by the weak results obtained by the Labor Party in the UK. Still, the S&D should be able to rely on an alliance of different parties including the BSP (Bulgaria), SPD (Germany), SPOE / P (Spain), DK (Hungary), PL / MLP (Malta), PvdA (Country PS) (Portugal), and Labor (UK).
Another leftist parliamentary group suffered a similar significant reduction. The European United Left/Nordic Green Left has shrunk from 52 MEPs in 2014 to 39 MEPs in 2019. These results will likely weaken the influence of this group, although it should always be able to rely on a number of national allies such as Die Linke (Germany), Syriza (Greece), and France Insoumise (France).
Overall, one of the main lessons of these elections is the historic fall in the influence of these traditional parties. In addition, the decline of the EPP could be further intensified by the potential departure of Viktor Orbán from the Group. The Hungarian President could indeed decide to join the Eurosceptic group, which would lead to the departure of 13 of his deputies from the EPP. The EPP and the S&D will have to reach out to and unite more broadly with liberal coalitions in order to effect change in the EU.
A strong mobilisation for Eurosceptic parties
The European Parliament’s Eurosceptic parties should win 172 seats, up from 27 seats compared with their 2014 results. The three groups – Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), and Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) – can therefore boast of having strengthened their influence within the European hemicycle although not as much as expected. should be able to count on an important support of the Rassemblement National (France), Lega Nord (Italy), FPÖ (Austria), Vl. Belang (Belgium), and SPD (Czech Republic). The ECR should be based on a strong alliance between the elected PiS (Poland), N-VA (Belgium), FvD (Netherlands), and Conservatives (UK). The EFDD will most likely group the M5S (Italy), AfD (Germany), and the Brexit Party (UK). Although their divergent views over issues like migration and attitudes toward Russia could cloud prospects for a united right, Eurosceptic parties may be able to obstruct the legislative process. It will now be necessary to wait to see if an agreement between them will be possible.
Breakthrough for the Greens and Liberals
The last major trend of the 2019 European Parliament elections is the renewed influence of two parliamentary groups: the Greens / European Free Alliance (Greens / EFA) and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). Regarding the Greens / EFA Group, it is important to note their significant progress with a rise from 50 MEPs in 2014 to 69 MEPs for this new legislature making them the fourth largest voting bloc in the EU. It seems that the Greens can count on the support of, among others, EELV (France), Grüne (Germany), LVZS (Lithuania), GroenLinks (Netherlands), and the Green Party (UK). Regarding ALDE, a notable increase is also to be observed with a passage from 67 MEPs in 2014 to 109 for the 2019-2024 legislature. It seems that the new ALDE group could be based on a coalition of different national parties, such as ANO 2011 (Czech Republic), FDP (Germany), RE (Estonia), KESK (Finland), and La République en Marche (France). Although the position of some of these national parties is not yet known, the influence of ALDE in the European Parliament will in any case be strengthened. Overall, the rise of the Greens / EFA Group and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group is likely to bring an upheaval in the European hemicycle with a real shake-up of the political balances and pre-existing coalitions.
The 2019 European elections are marked by a major upheaval in the balance of political groups in the European Parliament. In the upcoming days and weeks, it will be decisive to monitor the position of the national political parties, which will have to specify or re-specify their membership in the different pan-European formations. In addition to these coalitions’ uncertainties, it is also essential to take into account Brexit, which will significantly affect the European Parliament’s current formation, both in terms of the distribution of seats and the importance of certain political groups (notably the EFDD which would lose 29 of its 56 MEPs).