February 7, 2019

The 2019 Elections to the European Parliament: Trends and Risks

Roman Kot

Elections to the European Parliament (EP) are scheduled for May 23–26, 2019. Given the wide range of its powers in the budgetary sphere and in the common foreign and security policy, the European Parliament is one of the key bodies in the context of Ukraine's cooperation with the European Union. On the balance of forces within the newly formed ruling Grand Coalition, will largely depend the EU's policy not only in supporting Ukraine, but also in containing Russia, in particular the maintenance and build-up of anti-Russian sanctions. Therefore, here is our preliminary analysis of the trends in the formation of the next convocation of the EP.


Uncertainty in the UK

First of all, it should be noted that it is still not clear according to what procedure the elections will be held. The UK has to leave the EU before March 29, but the process of its exit is being slowed down because, due to a whole set of reasons, the agreement between the British Government and the European Commission does not have sufficient support from the United Kingdom's establishment.

If Brexit does happen, the number of PMs will be reduced from 751 to 705 in the next convocation of the European Parliament. In particular, of the 73 seats reserved for Great Britain, 46 fall under the reduction and 27 will be redistributed among other member states.

If Britain's withdrawal from the EU is halted or canceled, the country will take part in the elections to the European Parliament. And according to the same procedure, as in 2014, that is, 73 seats will be claimed by representatives of the United Kingdom.


Existing Status Quo

Grand Coalition in the European Parliament: traditionally, for decades, the European Parliament was dominated by two powerful conglomerates of the right and left-centered orientation:

  • European People's Party (EPP Group). Major participants: CDU/CSU in Germany, People's Party in Spain, Forza Italia — in Italy, Civic Platform in Poland, The Republicans — in France, Fidesz in Hungary);
  • Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (PASD, Socialist Party in France, Social Democratic Party of Germany, Democratic Party in Italy, Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, Labor Party in the UK).

As a rule, they involve smaller factions in the Grand Coalition. In the current convocation, the third partner of the EPP and PASD is the centrist “Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe” (ALDE).

The parties of the Grand Coalition might form a majority in the next European Parliament
The parties of the Grand Coalition might form a majority
in the next European Parliament

According to the latest for the time of preparation of this material sociological polls, the parties that are now forming the Grand Coalition can count on 385 seats, in particular: the EPP — on 191 parliamentary seats, PASD — on 138, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe — on 56. This is by 97 seats fewer than they received in the 2014 elections: the EPP — 221, the PASD — 191 and the ALDE — 70.

Since the constituents of European parties are national parties, the processes that are taking place at the level of the EU member states decisively influenced the decline in their ratings. In particular, this applies to those states that delegate to the EP the greatest number of MPs: Germany, France, Italy, Poland and Spain — a total of 362 out of 705 MPs; and to a lesser extent, the “second echelon” states: the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary and Austria — together 207 MPs.

As for the EPP, here is the fall of ratings:

At the same time, the EPP's ratings is positively influenced by the preservation of its positions in Austria, Romania, Belgium and the Czech Republic, as well as the decision of the Prime Minister of Hungary and leader of the Fidesz party Viktor Orban not to leave the EPP.

As for the PASD, this is how the popularity has fallen:

At the same time, we can't ignore the growth of ratings of the Socialist Party in Portugal — from 31.5 % to 38.5 %; preservation of the position of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party — 23 %, and a number of PASD’s parties in Austria — 26 % at the level of the year 2014.

Opposition in the European Parliament: Despite the growing popularity and coming to power in certain states of conditionally populist forces, they failed to unite into a joint  group and are represented by several factions:

  • “European Conservatives and Reformists” in 2014 won 70 seats. In case of Brexit, the faction will weaken as a result of the non-participation of the members of the British Conservative Party. At the same time, there is an increase in ratings of the second pillar of the faction – the Polish “Law and Justice” — from 31.7 % to 37 %.
  • “Europe for Freedom and Democracy”, the nucleus of which is the Italian “Five Star Movement”, in 2014 received 48 seats. Given the stable position of the party in domestic politics (21 % in 2014 and 24 % in 2019), it is unlikely that factional positions will increase significantly as a result of the election.
  • It is unlikely that populist Eurosceptic parties could substantially increase their influence in the next European Parliament
    It is unlikely that populist Eurosceptic parties could substantially increase their influence in the next European Parliament
    “Europe of Nations and Freedom”, the dominant role of which is played by the French “National Rally”, in 2014 received 37 seats. In the next convocation, we should expect a slight increase in the size of this faction at the expense of the growing popularity of the “Northern League” in Italy — from 6.2 % to 32 %. It is also possible that the “Alternative for Germany” will join the faction, as its MPs are not currently part of any of the factions, but they are expected to increase their presence in the EP from 7.1 % to 15 %.
  • “European United Left — Nordic Green Left”, who received 52 seats in 2014 and the “Greens — European Free Alliance” with 50 MPs have a stable level of support and are obviously retaining their positions.



In case if the ratings of the EPP, PASD and ALDE remain at the current level, the parties forming the Grand Coalition in the current convocation of the European Parliament will have the opportunity to form a majority in the next one too. At the same time, even such number of the members is enough to form a coalition — 353 in case of Brexit and 376 if Britain remains in the EU.

If the above-mentioned trends for falling of the EPP and PASD ratings continue, and taking into consideration Russia, China and other countries' interference in the elections to the European Parliament, there is a danger that the present Grand Coalition will miss the votes. In this case, joining the coalition by one of the left-wing opposition parties, the “European United Left — Nordic Green Left” or the “Greens — European Free Alliance”, could be a way out. This, in turn, creates a risk of delaying the coalition's negotiations and further difficulties with the adoption of strategic decisions for the EU.

Despite the growing popularity in the EU of populist Eurosceptic parties, it is unlikely that they could substantially increase their influence in the next European Parliament.

If the institutional capacity of the European Parliament falls, it will be difficult for Ukraine to respond in a timely manner to Russia's hostile actions and calls for lifting of anti-Russian sanctions.