The 512 million voters spanning in 28 European Union (EU) countries elected 751 members of European parliament for the next five years in a 4 day long voting. This is the second largest electoral exercise in the world after the Indian elections. But Indian elections completed in a five week long voting exercise divided into seven phases. European elections are the largest voting exercise in a one go.
With nationalism resurgent, this election was critical for those who wanted to preserve and further integrate European Union, as well as those who wanted it dismantled from within. The voters produced a fragmented parliament with no political block has the clear majority in the house of 751. The election results are mix bag which has something for every political force. If the Conservatives and Social democrats lost 70 seats than the populist, nationalist and far right also failed to make significant gains. The only surprising package came from Greens in the Northern European countries. The Liberals have also increased their seats.
The turnout was surprisingly high at 51%. It was the highest turnout in two decades. In 2014, the turnout was 42.6%. The reason of high turnout was the polarisation among the different political forces.
And now that the results are in, the message is clear: European voters want a change. Both the center left and the center right have lost their overwhelming majority in the parliament for the first time since 1979, when the first European parliamentary elections were held.
Voters on the left and center instead threw support to the pro-environment, pro-EU Green parties (known as the “Greens”) and liberals. But far-right populist and nationalist parties led by the likes of Italy’s Matteo Salvini and Marine Le Pen also bolstered their position in the European Parliament. Le Pen National Rally won most of the seats and tops the tables while Salvini’s League party came first in Italy.
Some voters may be fed up with the establishment, but they’re still largely backing pro-EU parties, even if they’re looking elsewhere than the traditional centrist blocs. At the same time, this is less about an overarching European narrative than about an expression of 28 separate national political debates, amplified on a continental scale.
The pro-EU, left leaning, pro-immigration and environmentalist the Greens emerged as surprising package of European elections. The Greens came second in Germany with a whopping 20 percent of the vote, beating the traditional center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD). The Greens had their best-ever results in Finland, picking up 16% votes.
In France, Greens came in surprising third ahead of Socialist party, with 13 percent of the vote. In the UK, the Greens got 12% of the vote gaining approximately seven seats and coming in in fourth place, in front of the ruling Conservative Party.
In total, the Greens will take 71 seats in the 751-member European Parliament, up from 51 in the last election, in 2014. With the losses within the center right and centre left, this will give them a lot more influence in the European Parliament.
So what’s behind this so-called Green Wave in Northern Europe? It seems that Environmental activism and concerns over climate change are certainly part of it. But more broadly, the Greens have managed to articulate a vision on social and economic issues — pro-immigrant, pro-Europe — that the center left has muddled a bit in recent years, especially in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
The European parliamentary elections were expected to test the rise of far right and their nationalistic, populist, and generally Eurosceptic approach to the EU.
The far right has succeeded to increase their share of seats from 20% to 25%. It is a considerable increase but couldn’t be dubbed as a European election sweep. In some countries, they showed better performance but in other countries they failed to increase their support.
In Italy, Salvini’s Lega party dominated the polls, winning 34% votes. In2014, it could win only 6% votes. It means Lega party has made the net gain of 28 seats. In France, Le Pen’s National Rally edged out French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist reformist coalition.
Both the centre left and right suffered losses in the elections. They lost support to both Greens and far right parties. The center-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the center-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) have essentially ruled the European Parliament since 1979. This weekend’s election effectively ended their 40-year majority. “It has very much been under the control of these two political families, and now this is going to be different.
But the pro-EU center is not depleted; instead, it’s reemerged among the Greens and liberals and other smaller centrist parties. This means the Greens, along with liberals, will likely be the kingmakers in the new European Parliament, as the center-right and center-left will need to rely on them to get their agendas passed.
That dynamic may also serve to isolate the far right. In the past, the center-right coalition included more nationalist elements, most notably Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz Party. The idea was that bringing in the far-right would moderate them, but these European elections have shown that’s just not the case. What’s more, that alliance with the more mainstream parties gave a sheen of legitimacy to these far-right populists — legitimacy that will dissipate somewhat if all the nationalist parties hang out together instead.
The United Kingdom wasn’t even supposed to be participating in the European parliamentary elections this year because it was supposed to be out of EU now. That hasn’t happened yet, obviously, so the UK had to vote after all. As a result, the European parliamentary elections — like basically everything else in the UK these days — turned into a referendum on the Brexit debate that’s dividing the country.
The Brexit Party of Nigel Farage won 29 seats. This party was formed just few weeks ago and became the largest party with 31% votes. His victory was likely a combination of eating up all of UKIP’s support and siphoning off some Conservative voters who are disillusioned with PM Theresa May.
The Liberal Democrats, a staunchly pro-Remain party and supporters of a second referendum, came in second with 20 percent of the vote. The Labour Party came in third, and the Conservatives came in fifth — the UK’s two main parties falling behind two others that had clearer, though differing, and visions of the UK’s relationship to the EU.
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