Between 23 and 26 May 2019 citizens of 28 European Union (EU) Member States elected 751 new Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). With a record high turnout of 51% across the EU-28, voters have expressed a powerful vote against some of the governing political parties. Here is our analysis of the preliminary results:
Germany goes Green, France turns right
In Germany, the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU) recorded a historically low result by obtaining just under 29% of the votes. The Greens pushed the Social Democrats (SPD) into third position, gaining the support of 20.5% of voters versus nearly 16% voting in favour of SPD. The eurosceptic far-right Alternative for Germany ended with 11% support, which is lower than in the 2017 national parliament election. In France over 23% of voters backed Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement national, with La République en Marche of President Emmanuel Macron coming a close second. On the left, the centre-left coalition of Parti Socialiste and Place publique gained just over 6% of the votes, while the Green Europe écologie-Les verts Party gained 13.5%.
Divided results in the rest of Europe
In Belgium, home to the majority of European institutions, the results indicate strong support for the right-wing parties with the New Flemish Alliance coming first, followed by the populist far-right Vlaams Belang. The British voters, whose participation in this year’s election was uncertain until the very last weeks, expressed a strong “no-confidence” vote for the ruling Conservative Party, which ended in fifth place with less than 9% of the votes. In a reflection of the strong polarisation of the British public opinion, Nigel Farage’s newly established Brexit Party won with nearly 32% support, followed by the pro-European Liberal Democrats who gained nearly 19% of the votes. Elsewhere in Europe, the majority of the Italian, Polish and Hungarian voters backed the ruling Eurosceptic governing parties, whereas the Dutch, Swedish and Danish voters’ choice remained with the pro-European mainstream.
New balance of power between EP political groups
Preliminary results from the EU-28 indicate that political parties forming the European People’s Party (EPP) will obtain 177 seats in the new Parliament. This is 39 seats less than in the outgoing Parliament but sufficient to maintain the position of the biggest political group. Also weakened, the socialist S&D group is expected to maintain its second position, with 149 seats against 187 in the previous term. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) has strengthened its position as the third biggest political group, with 107 seats against 68 in the previous legislature. The Greens, with an expected number of 69 MEPs, have grown stronger by 17 seats. On the far-right nationalists and populists parties end, their relatively good results will not necessarily transpose into building a unified political voice in the Parliament as this would require overcoming their traditional fragmentation. Overall, with 376 votes needed to form a majority, this new balance of power means that the two-group consensus that was in place since 2009 will no longer be possible. We can therefore expect some interesting coalition-building efforts in the upcoming decision-making. [Note, these results are provisional and will be finalised in the coming days.]
The composition of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON) will face significant reshuffle. Some of the leading members of the committee, including the outgoing ECON Chair, Roberto Gualtieri (IT, S&D), former MiFID II / MiFIR rapporteur Markus Ferber (DE, EPP), the Greens’ coordinator Sven Giegold (DE) and former CRR / CRD IV rapporteur Othmar Karas (AT, EPP) have all secured their return. They will be joined by Danuta Hübner (PL, EPP), Paul Tang (NL, S&D), Sirpa Pietikäinen (FI, EPP) and Luděk Niedermayer (CZ, EPP). However, the defeat of the SPD in Germany means that Peter Simon (DE, S&D), ECON’s Vice-Chair and rapporteur on the recently adopted package of amendments to prudential legislation, will not be coming back. Others, including S&D coordinator Pervenche Berès (FR, S&D) and ECON Vice-Chair Brian Hayes (IE, EPP), did not run.
Commission President Weber?
With the EPP maintaining its position, albeit weakened, as the major political group in the newly elected Parliament, Manfred Weber (DE, EPP) is the leading candidate for the positon of the new European Commission’s President. His success in gaining the backing from the majority of the European Parliament will depend on the coalition the EPP will form, and whether the coalition partners would back his candidacy. However, the Spitzenkandidat process for the nomination of a Commission President may not go as smoothly as expected and some Member States are likely to question the automation of Weber’s nomination for the top job. Not surprisingly, French President Emmanuel Macron has indicated that he would prefer to see former Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier becoming Commission President. The heads of European states and governments are meeting in Brussels today (28 May) for the first post-election informal summit. The new College of Commissioners is expected to take office on 01 November 2019, but this timeline may be altered.