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22 May 2014

Run-up to the European elections

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The latest polls, less than a week before the election process starts, predict the EPP to win overall, and for the established parties to gain over 2/3 of the seats.

The latest polls:

© European Parliament (full article)

As commented by euObserver, the latest estimate predicts the centre-right EPP to win just a few seats more than the centre-left S&D (217 to 199). The Liberal group will come third with 61 MEPs, while the Greens will be fourth with 50 seats ahead of the Leftist Gue/NGL group up for 46 seats in the new 751-seat assembly.

The ERC group, which is dominated by the UK conservative party, is up for 42 seats while another eurosceptic group, EFD, led by the UK Independence party, stands to get 33 seats. A seventh new political group might be composed of parties from the far-right, led by the French Front National.

While the parliament has gained new legislative powers from successive treaty changes, and while the European Commission has more say than ever on national budgets, turnout has steadily declined from 63 percent in the first direct European Parliament elections in 1979 to just 43 percent in 2009. Despite the four-day voting period, the full results will be released only after the final polling station has closed – at 11pm Brussels time on Sunday 25 May.

As reported by WSJ, the EPP pulled ahead in Poland and Finland, where it is once again the biggest party, while the Socialists lost seats in a handful of countries, including the Czech Republic and Poland. But the latest polls still see big gains for euroskeptic and anti-EU parties, including some on the far-right. The anti-EU and anti-immigrant National Front, headed by Marine Le Pen, still looks set to be the biggest party in France, while the UK Independence Party, which wants Britain to leave the EU, is leading the polls in the UK. 


Germany - The Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU, 37 seats) are well ahead of the Social Democrats (27 seats) and there are nine non-attached members.

As reported by EurActiv, for the first time in the history of the European elections, Germany won’t have the usual 3 per cent election threshold, as the Constitutional Court annulled the rule last February. Hence, small parties will now have a higher chance to get a seat in the next European Parliament, as only about one percent of the votes will be enough to make it to Strasbourg.

With about 7 per cent of the votes, the ‘Alternative für Deutschland’ (AfD) will enter the European Parliament, as recent opinion polls predict. The AfD runs a populist and Eurosceptic election campaign. To leave the euro and return to the old national currency, the Deutsche Mark, is the main demand of the party. The party's manifesto also calls for a tougher stance on asylum and migration, and the carrying out of referenda on European issues. 

The AfD's organisational base wants the elected candidates to join the Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group in the European Parliament. However, the party's elite – including top candidates Bernhard Lucke, a national conservative, and Hans-Olaf Henkel, a free-market radical – maintain a different position. They will most likely decide to join the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), with the British Tories representing the majority.

France - The FN is likely to win, with 23 seats, ahead of the EPP-affiliated Union for a Popular Movement (UMP, 20 seats) and the Socialists (14 seats).

In France, the 5% vote threshold will play in favour of the biggest parties, such as the UMP of former President NicolasSarkozy, or the PS of his successor François Hollande. But some new organisations may create a surprise. For the first time, a feminist party called "Féministes pour une Europe solidaire" is attempting to raise the attention at the French representation of the European Parliament. It is led by Caroline de Haas, a previous member of Socialist Party.

Pierre Larrouturou, previously a Socialist, has also built a new political force called ‘Nouvelle Donne’, which intends to fight against lobbies.

Overall, France has managed to gather around 3600 candidates and 193 differents lists stand for the European elections.

Italy - M5S is just behind the various EPP parties (on 20 seats combined) and the S&D-affiliated Democratic Party (on 27 seats).

United Kingdom - The predictions put the UK Independence Party (UKIP) as the biggest party, with 24 seats to Labour's 22. The governing Conservatives would win 17 seats while its coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, would win only two seats (down from 12) according to the PollWatch forecast.

Netherlands - The PVV is on four seats but the biggest single party seems likely to be Democrats 66, with five out of the nine Dutch Liberal MEPs.

Poland - The Civic Platform (EPP) is once again set to be the biggest party, with 20 seats. The forecast puts Law and Justice (PiS – ECR Group) on 17 seats.

Greece - Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras stressed this week’s European elections will be a "referendum" on the bailout agreement. A new Kapa Research poll on the European Parliament elections has SYRIZA in the lead on 27.4 per cent, New Democracy on 22.7 per cent and the neo-nazi Golden Dawn on 8.7 per cent, as reported by Bloomberg.

Overall country-by-country prediction table by and full set of infographics by WSJ.

Further reporting on smaller, potential 'kingmaker' parties country-by-country by EurActiv.

The presidential race

EuropeDecides writes that the prediction suggests that Jean-Claude Juncker will be given the first opportunity to build a coalition in the European Parliament and the European Council to become President of the European Commission. However, the drop in support for the Liberals, and the ECR Group, make a centre-right coalition impossible (with Juncker having ruled out relying on any – unlikely – support he may be given by anti-EU parties).

Martin Schulz, the Socialist candidate, would also fall short if he tried to form a left-liberal alliance of Socialists, Liberals, the radical left and Greens.

In these circumstances all signals point to the need for a grand coalition between the EPP and S&D, possibly with ALDE support too. Whether that support can be mustered in the Parliament, let alone the European Council, for one of the lead candidates, remains to be seen. These predictions suggest that the results are likely to be only the beginning of a protracted series of negotiations on who heads the Commission.

The European elections - do they matter? (Deutsche Bank Research Brief)

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