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Edric O

European Parliament elections, 2014

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Yes, it's that time of the decade again! The voters of the 28 member states of the European Union have just elected the people who will occupy the 751 seats of the European Parliament for the next five years. We had a thread about the previous European elections five years ago, so I thought I would continue the tradition and start a new thread for this round, as well.

Here is a breakdown of this year's results from the BBC, and here is a table of results on Wikipedia. Be aware that many of the parties in the "other" category will end up joining one of the pre-existing groups in the next few weeks, so the final breakdown of seats may be different from what you see now.

A quick summary of what has happened at these elections is that the mainstream parties have suffered a massive blow and scored the worst results they've had in the entire history of the European Parliament, while turnout remained basically the same as in 2009 (which is to say, very low). The large variety of non-mainstream parties that have gained from these elections can be divided in three broad categories: (a) far-right nationalist eurosceptics, who probably advanced more than anyone else, (b) radical-left and far-left parties, who scored significant gains, but nothing too spectacular, and © vague non-ideological protest movements, who don't stand for anything in particular and will certainly prove to be a disappointment to their voters.

Having said that, although the anti-establishment has made the greatest gains and the mainstream parties have lost a lot of seats compared to 2009, the mainstream parties still held on to a solid majority of seats overall (smaller than in 2009, but a majority is a majority), so, if they wish, they could just continue with business as usual and pretend nothing went wrong. If that is what ends up happening (which seems very likely), the elections in 2019 will be very interesting indeed. The tide of popular opinion is finally turning against the EU, even in formerly staunch pro-EU heartlands such as France and Germany. So, for the first time in 20 years, the possibility of ending the European Union appears to be within grasp.

For the record, I myself used to be a staunch supporter of the EU ten years ago, but now I want it dismantled. I used to believe that the EU could be reformed and improved, but the last few years have shown that it is an undemocratic neoliberal juggernaut beyond all hope of redemption, and must be destroyed.

* * * * *

And now a few words in description of the various political groups in the European Parliament.

First of all, for those unfamiliar with the whole system, the way it works is that national parties from each member state get elected and send representatives to become Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), and then these MEPs join together in multinational alliances ("political groups") based on ideology. This year, many parties were elected to the European Parliament for the first time in their history (because of the aforementioned anti-establishment vote), and these new parties start out in the "other" category (meaning they are not yet members of any group). That does not mean they will stay there for long. Most of them will join one of the existing groups, and some may start a new group. So the numbers of group members that you see on the BBC page linked above or on any other results page are just the initial numbers, before the new parties have decided what they will do. At the bottom of this post I will estimate the final numbers.

The 7 pre-existing groups can be described as follows:

1. The Left (officially, the "European United Left") - a group consisting of socialists and communists. Farther to the left than anything you may find in American politics. They are the only group that actively talks about class struggle. The Left supports workers in strikes and other conflicts with bosses, and they are anti-market and anti-business. Most, though not all, call for the abolition of capitalism. They generally believe that the EU is a good idea in principle but very badly implemented in practice, while a few oppose the EU even in principle. The group can therefore be described as eurosceptic.

2. The social democrats (officially, the "Group of Socialists and Democrats", where the term "socialist" is left over from history) - the mainstream center-left bloc. Used to be roughly the equivalent of the most left-wing Democrats in the US, or the NDP in Canada, but it's not clear what they stand for these days, seeing how they've endorsed austerity after 2009. In theory, they support the welfare state and egalitarian measures within the framework of a market economy. But they have been drifting towards the right for decades. They are vehemently pro-EU.

3. The Greens - pretty self-explanatory, really. They are strong environmentalists with generally center-left views on other political issues. The equivalent of the Green Party in the US and Canada, and most Green parties throughout the world. They are mostly, but not terribly strongly, pro-EU. For some reason, the Green group also includes center-left separatist parties such as the Scottish National Party and some Catalonian separatists. In addition, Pirate Parties usually join the Green group when they get any MEPs, so you could say the Green group is a sort of catch-all for center-left anti-establishment types.

4. The liberals (officially, the "Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe") - your standard classical liberal group, with a number of generic centrists thrown in. They are usually the most pro-business, pro-market group in the European Parliament. They don't have a direct equivalent in American or Canadian politics, but they are very much like the most pro-business elements in the mainstream politics of those countries (note I said mainstream; libertarians are similar, but far too extreme to qualify). The liberals are utterly in love with the EU, making them the most pro-EU group in Parliament. They support the idea of a United States of Europe.

5. The conservatives (officially, the "European People's Party", EPP) - the mainstream center-right bloc. They support capitalism and the market economy, within certain limits, they tend to uphold established tradition, talk a lot about law and order, and are uneasy about immigration. They are pretty much the equivalent of the Democratic Party in the US, as well as the more moderate Republicans. Both Obama and Mitt Romney would fit in here (though most Republicans would not). They are also the equivalent of most Liberals and Conservatives in Canada, again with the exception of the more radical wings of each party. If this sounds like a broad range of opinions, that's because it is. The EPP is by far the "biggest tent" in the European Parliament. Most of them are also vehemently pro-EU, although they don't go as far as the liberals.

6. The radical conservatives (officially, the "European Conservative and Reformist group", ECR) - the farther-right-but-not-extreme-right group. They support capitalism and the market economy, with much fewer limits, they strongly uphold established tradition and law-and-order policies, and they usually oppose immigration. They are the equivalent of most of the Republican Party in the US (but not the Tea Party or other extreme elements), and are also broadly similar to the more hardline Conservatives in Canada. The ECR group is basically an alliance of two major parties - the British Conservatives and the Law and Justice Party from Poland - with a few very minor partners from other countries thrown in (some 90% of their MEPs are either British or Polish). They are eurosceptic and wish to scale down the EU, but not abolish it.

7. The nationalist eurosceptics (officially, the "Europe of Freedom and Democracy group", EFD) - a group formed largely but not entirely of right-wing nationalists. They are united by the goal of either abolishing the EU or at least taking their respective countries out of it. Other than that, they tend to have a broad range of opinions. However, this group is overwhelmingly dominated by one party - the British UKIP - which provides some two-thirds of the group's total MEPs. Therefore, EFD's policies are basically UKIP's policies.

* * * * *

You can see the current breakdown of elected MEPs for the various groups in the links above, but you'll notice that there is also an enormous group of "others" - 120 MEPs, over 15% of the entire parliament. So, where are these "others" likely to go?

- 11 MEPs (3 from Italy, 6 from Spain, 1 from Sweden, 1 from Ireland) are radical leftists and will probably join the Left group

- 11 MEPs (6 from Spain, 2 from Greece, 2 from Hungary, 1 from Slovenia) are mainstream center-left/social democrats, so they will probably join the social democratic group

- 10 MEPs (3 from Germany, 1 from the Netherlands, 2 from Hungary, 2 from Portugal, 1 from Croatia, 1 from Latvia) are Greens, and will probably join the Green group

- 8 MEPs (1 from Germany, 4 from the Czech Republic, 1 from Austria, 1 from Slovakia, 1 from Croatia) are liberals or have said they will join the liberal group

- 5 MEPs (1 from Germany, 1 from Bulgaria, 2 from Slovakia, 1 from Croatia) are mainstream center-right and will probably join the EPP group

- 10 MEPs (7 from Germany, 1 from Slovakia, 1 from Lithuania) are conservative eurosceptics, so they will probably join the ECR group

- 6 MEPs (4 from Poland, 1 from the Czech Republic, 1 from Greece) are hard-eurosceptics/nationalists, and will probably join the EFD group

- 35 MEPs (the triumphant 24 - !!! - MEPs from the National Front of France, 4 from the Netherlands, 1 from Belgium, 2 from Sweden, 4 from Austria) are ultra-nationalists or fascists, and will almost certainly attempt to create a new ultra-nationalist group in the European Parliament. Since the rules require a group to include MEPs from a minimum of seven countries and they only have five (and since fascists from different countries have trouble getting along), they may not necessarily succeed. But the European Parliament is closer to having an ultra-nationalist group than it has been in a long time.

In addition, there are some wild cards:

- 7 MEPs are outright neo-Nazis (3 Golden Dawn members from Greece, 3 Jobbik members from Hungary, and 1 NPD member from Germany), and are therefore probably too far right even for the new ultra-nationalist/fascist group, so they will most likely remain non-aligned. Then again, if Marine Le Pen is desperate enough, she may stoop as low as trying to make a deal with Nazis in order to get the seven countries for her group.

- 23 MEPs (1 from Germany, a whopping 17 - !!! - from Italy, 1 from Romania, 2 from Bulgaria, 1 from Ireland, 1 from Slovenia) belong to non-ideological protest parties and could go anywhere, or nowhere.

So, to make a long story short, I predict the following final arrangement for the European Parliament during the 2014-2019 term:

Socialists and communists: 59 MEPs (8%)

Social democrats: 199 MEPs (26%)

Greens: 54 MEPs (7%)

Liberals: 63 MEPs (8%)

Conservatives (EPP): 209 MEPs (28%)

Radical conservatives (ECR): 54 MEPs (7%)

Nationalist eurosceptics (EFD): 44 MEPs (6%)

Ultra-nationalists: 35 MEPs (5%)

And 30 MEPs either remaining non-aligned or unpredictably joining some group.

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Italy will be really a wild card, not just the officially unaligned MEP, but you should also count that Social Democrat elected (31) were splitted in more groups and was an arbitrary decision of the new secretary to go in the PES. The premier himself come from DC but many elected are communists and socialists (there are even pure bankers and one girl from the american democratic party that can vote in Italy for unknown reasons), he didn't have much problem with colleagues because they are yes-men with his presence, but they could quarrel a lot once in european parliament without his control.

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Thanks, Edric O! That's a very interesting read indeed (especially since I did not take a particular interest in EU politics before).

On a side note, do you have any blog of sorts where you post similar (or maybe more detailed) accounts? Or perhaps a blog of another observer you'd recommend? I wouldn't mind reading that to keep myself informed on the subject of world politics.

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You know, I've been thinking of starting a blog for years (probably something like ten years, at this point). But I never started one, mainly because I don't think I could write new posts often enough to create a community of regular readers, and without such a community it makes no sense to have a blog - I might as well post on forums or make comments on other people's blogs.

At least, that has been my thinking so far, essentially based on the assumption that any blog I start is just not going to be popular enough to be worth it. But your comment (and some others I've got recently, elsewhere) are making me reconsider that. Maybe I could start a blog and make it reasonably popular, after all...

But let me ask you something: If I were to start a blog, do you think it would be better to have it explicitly focused on commentary from a communist perspective (maybe something like Lenin's Tomb, but more accessible, directed at a general reader instead of other leftists), or do you think it would be more interesting to have it as a place for any and all musings, whether about politics, religion, popular culture, or whatever?

In terms of where I get my information, I usually rely on BBC news as the primary source, and then I simply google any event that sounds interesting or that I want to learn more about. I don't actually follow any specific blogs on a regular basis...

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But let me ask you something: If I were to start a blog, do you think it would be better to have it explicitly focused on commentary from a communist perspective (maybe something like Lenin's Tomb, but more accessible, directed at a general reader instead of other leftists), or do you think it would be more interesting to have it as a place for any and all musings, whether about politics, religion, popular culture, or whatever?

That probably depends first and foremost on your intended target audience. Personally I would be interested in reading your commentary on any subject. But perhaps other people who have expressed the desire to read your blog would prefer a more focussed approach with an emphasis on politics.

It is probably also of consideration that a blog is a somewhat more public way to express one's thoughts compared to forums. Perhaps (I'm speaking from no personal experience here though, just some observations of some blogs that I know) it would be a good idea to start with a distinct "main theme" of the publications, and then, when you have some idea of the actual audience through their comments and other feedback that you get, broaden the range of subjects if you feel it's appropriate. Again, I should stress that this is purely theoretical as I have no blogging experience myself.

Also, thanks for the link! :)

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Looks like Germany's AFD are causing a headache for David Cameron as they're trying to join the ECR grouping but Merkel is putting pressure on Cameron to convince the Tories to reject them. 

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Some news from the far-left and the far-right:

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), which is the most hardline of the communist parties currently in the European Parliament, has withdrawn from the Left group and published a very strongly-worded statement condemning the Left group for being too soft (and especially for being too weak in their opposition to the EU). I agree with their views, but I question their judgment in choosing to go alone like this. If there were other hardline communist parties in the EU parliament, then sure, this might be a good idea. But what does the KKE expect to be able to do on its own? Ever since the crisis began the KKE has had great policies but horribly bad strategy. I fear this is yet another strategic mistake.

Meanwhile, the radical conservative group (ECR) is scooping up minor parties all over the place. The Family Party (Germany, 1 MEP), the New Majority (Slovakia, 1 MEP), Ordinary People (Slovakia, 1 MEP), and Independent Greeks (Greece, 1 MEP) have all joined ECR. The reason why this matters is because it's leaving a lot less hard-right parties available to join other groups and give them the seven countries they need. In fact, there have also been two outright defections from EFD to ECR: The True Finns Party and the Danish People's Party.

As a result, EFD is increasingly looking like UKIP and (almost) no one else. They've only got four parties now: UKIP with 24 MEPs and three minor parties with a combined total of only 4 MEPs. So unless UKIP finds some new allies fast, their victory may well turn into a defeat.

...and, as it just so happens, the French National Front and their fellow ultra-nationalists and fascists are also in dire need of allies, as they still only have five countries and therefore can't form a group. So the big question on the far-right is: Will UKIP and the National Front lay aside their differences and join to form a combined far-right eurosceptic group? Or will they refuse to play together and laughably end up with no group at all, despite massive electoral gains in their respective countries?

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You won't get Le Pen and Farage in the same group.  Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement are in talks to join the EFD.

 

Both the Finns Party and the Danish People's Party have left EFD to join ECR and the Swedish Democrats are refusing to deal with Le Pen so I can't see Le Pen forming a group at this rate given that she won't work with Atack, NPD, or Golden Dawn.

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The math just doesn't add up for both Farage and Le Pen to be able to have their own groups, though. Not after ECR scooped up all those minor parties. Either they'll have to work together, or Le Pen will have to work with neo-Nazis (Golden Dawn/Jobbik/NPD), or one of them (either Farage or Le Pen) will be left without a group.

Attack didn't get any MEPs, by the way.

I've heard people speculating that ECR was so eager to get all those minor parties on board precisely because Cameron is trying to isolate Farage.

And, strangely enough, AfD may be forced to remain among the non-inscrits, because of Merkel's pressure on ECR not to accept them. Just goes to show how powerful she has become in Europe. Bismarck would be so proud.

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Here's an update of who is going where:

http://europedecides.eu/2014/06/whos-going-where-tracking-the-musical-chairs-in-the-european-parliament/

 

It will be interesting to see if Beppe Grillo's M5S joins EFD. Would certainly make the group seem more moderate. 

 

ECR is an odd incoherent bunch - some of their MEPs are libertarians/classical liberals such as Dan Hannan, others are right-wing populists like the Danish People's Party, whilst the Finns Party is almost left-wing in many of its beliefs. ECR has just become a vehicle for the Tories to try to deny as much power/funding to UKIP as possible.

 

I am surprised that Germany's Free Voters have joined the liberals.

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