EPIC Publishing Updates: The European Union Explained Chapter 6: the European Parliament
In the run-up to the elections to the European Parliament in May 2019, many commentators anticipated a surge of the populist vote. As seen in Table 6.1. the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP; which unified national Christian democratic parties) as well as the Socialists and Democrats (S&D; which was the umbrella organisation for left-of-centre social democratic parties) suffered substantial setbacks and lost their combined majority. The EPP’s number of seats was reduced by 39 (from 221 to 182), although the group gained five seats in the post-Brexit adjustment. The S&D also struggled and relinquished 44 seats (from 191 to 153), which confirmed the long-term trend of established mass parties facing difficulties in mobilising their traditional voter bases. But other pro-EU parties made significant gains. The number of seats for Liberal democratic parties surged from 67 to 98. Green parties fared equally well, and their number of seats rose from 50 to 67. In contrast, populist parties fared less well than predicted. The European parliament of 2019 will host two Euro-sceptic and anti-EU groupings. The newly formed umbrella of ‘Identity and Democracy’ integrates Salvini’s la Lega, le Pen’s Rassemblement National, and the Alternative für Deutschland. It became only the fourth biggest party bloc with 76 seats. The ‘European Conservative and Reformists Group’ which is home to Poland’s Law and Justice Party went from 70 to 62 seats. And ‘Europe for Freedom and Direct Democracy’, the forum for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, disbanded after the UK left the European Union in January 2020. Adding up all EU-sceptic and anti-EU seats results in a total of 177. This is a significant rise from the 118 seats that these party groupings received in 2014, but it still only represents 25.1 per cent, and the large majority of members of the European parliament belong to pro-EU parties. Table 6.1. Results of Elections to the European Parliament, 2019 seat allocation after Brexit adjustmentName of Party Grouping Political spectrum Seat numbers Seats (%)EPP: European People’s Party Pro EU Christian Democratic 187 26.5S&D: Socialists & Democrats Pro EU Social Democratic 147 20.8Renew Europe Pro EU Liberal Democratic 98 13.9Greens & European Free Alliance Pro EU Green 76 10.8Identity and Democracy EU Sceptic, right wing populism 67 9.5European Conservative and Reformists EU Sceptic, conservative 62 8.9Confederal Group of United Left and Nordic Greens EU Sceptic, hard left 39 5.5Non-Attached members n/a 29 4.1Total 705 100
Table 6.2. Allocation of Seats in European Parliament by CountryPre Brexit Post Brexit Country96 96 Germany74 79 France73 --- UK73 76 Italy54 59 Spain51 52 Poland32 33 Romania26 29 Netherlands21 21 Greece, Portugal, Czech Republic, Hungary, Belgium20 21 Sweden18 19 Austria17 17 Bulgaria13 14 Denmark, Slovakia11 13 Ireland11 12 Croatia11 11 Lithuania 8 8 Latvia, Slovenia 6 7 Estonia 6 6 Luxembourg, Cyprus, Malta751 Total 705 Total
Table 6.3. Turnout in EP electionsYear of Election Turnout (%)1979 63.01984 61.01989 58.51994 56.81999 49.82004 45.72009 42.92014 42.52019 50.7.