By Xinyuan Yang
The European Parliamentary election has typically been considered as a “second-order” national election. With issues like Brexit, the rise of populism, and the immigration crisis roiling the bloc, however, the European Parliamentary election this year had the highest voter turnout of the past two decades. The result of this year’s elections shows that even though the Euroscepticism and far-right populism is on the rise, pro-EU liberals are still winning big and the Green party is on the rise throughout Europe.
The Greens and the Liberals are the biggest winners in this election, with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for European Group (ALDE) winning 105 seats compare with 67 in 2014 election and the Greens winning 75 seats compared with 52 seats five years ago. The Greens attracted more young voters across the member states. In Germany, the Greens seemed to take votes away from both Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democratic party and the central-left Social Democratic Party. Countries like France, the UK, and Finland have also experienced incredible performances from their Green parties, which won 13%, 12% and 16 % of national votes respectively. Liberals within the EU parliament also did well, with France president Macron’s party gaining 21 seats in the ALDE.
The Liberals and the Greens became the kingmakers in the parliament with this year’s election as the two historically dominant parties — the central left party, the Progressive Alliance of Socialist and Democrats (S&D), and the central right party, the European People’s Party (EPP) — both losing their absolute majorities for the first time since 1979. Nevertheless, they are still taking the most seats in the parliament with EPP taking 179 seats and S&D taking 153 seats, a combined 47% of the total seats. Overall, the pro-EU center within the European parliament is unshaken at this point.
Still, the populist parties and far-right Eurosceptics also performed better than previous elections. After the establishment of the Brexit party in January 2019, it is gaining popular support from the Eurosceptics and Brexiters because of its clear agenda of leaving the EU. The president of the Brexit party, Nigel Farage, led his party won 29 seats in the European Parliament and became the leader of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group (EFDD) which is a traditionally Eurosceptic party in the EU parliament. In France, Marine Le Pen’s far-right party beat the president Emmanuel Macron with a marginal national vote of less than 3%. In Italy, the far-right populist League party led by Matteo Salvini also outperformed the central left Democratic Party.
Overall, pro-EU and liberal democratic parties are remaining strong in facing the rise of populist parties. The rise of the Green party across member states might become a new unifying force within the bloc. In the United Kingdom, with the Tory and Labor parties experiencing huge loss from this election, the rise of the Brexit party shows the Eurosceptic sentiment remains strong among the British people. Nevertheless, as the Brexit date has been pushed to Oct. 31th, whether it would be a deal or no-deal Brexit or even a second Brexit referendum is still under debate.
Photo courtesy of European Parliament on Flickr.