EU elections analysis: Centrists in retreat but no far-right populist surge | World News
The European Parliament elections delivered a blow to the two major party groups – the centre-right EPP and the centre-left S&D – that have controlled the chamber for four decades.
But we did not see the anti-EU far-right surge that many observers had predicted. Instead the pro-European Liberal and Greens groups had as much to celebrate as the national populists.
With most results in, the informal “grand coalition” of the EPP and S&D lost the majority they have held since the first elections to the European Parliament in 1979.
The centre-right EPP will remain the largest party group, but is projected to win just 180 MEPs (24%) of the total 751 MEPs, down from 217 seats in 2014.
The centre-left S&D has come second in the parliament with 146 MEPs (20%).
In Germany, France and the UK, this was a bad election for social democrats.
But socialists did well in Spain, where Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s PSOE topped the polls, and in Malta, where Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s Labour Party won 55% of the votes.
As the EPP and S&D will not control a parliamentary majority, they will have to work together with other party groups.
The strengthened liberal group ALDE (109 seats), which has joined forces with Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche, could be the king-makers in the new parliament.
Combined, these three pro-EU centrist party groups control 435 seats (58%), enough to dominate policy-making.
One of their first jobs will be to approve the next president of the European Commission. There are no guarantees that the choice will be the lead candidate of the largest group, EPP’s Manfred Weber.
In the run-up to these elections, much of the focus has been on the rise of eurosceptic populists across Europe.
The elections did not bring the expected populist surge, but the radical right did well in a number of countries.
The greatest gains were made in Italy by the League, the populist anti-immigrant party of deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, which stormed into first place ahead of the pro-EU centrists and its populist coalition partner, 5-Star Movement.
In Spain, the nationalist Vox gained representation in the European Parliament for the first time, but with fewer seats than expected, and in Belgium the anti-immigration Vlaams Belang made an electoral comeback.
Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally beat Macron’s En Marche at the finish line in France, but with a lower share of the vote than in 2014.
The most successful anti-EU party was British newcomer the Brexit Party, which, despite being only six weeks old, will form the biggest party delegation in the new parliament, as long as the UK remains in the EU.
Across western Europe, Green parties did better than expected.
In Germany, the Greens came far ahead of the social democrats, in second place behind Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.
The Greens also did well in Austria, Ireland, France and the UK.
The elections’ biggest winner was the European Union itself.
After suffering declining turnout in each consecutive election since 1979, turnout was up at 50.5%, compared with just 42.6% in 2014 and 43% in 2009.
Many will see this as a sign that the EU has become more salient to citizens across Europe.
Yet with greater politicisation has also come a more fragmented and polarised parliament.