June 15, 2009
A few reflections on last week’s European Parliament Election results:
· The results are broadly as expected, with the centre-right clear winners, the centre-left clear losers, and the extreme right and euro-sceptics doing well.
· In comparing the sizes of the old groups with the current sizes of the new groups, the reduction of the overall number of MEPs from 785 to 736 must be taken into account. This means that the PPE loses 18 seats to stand still, the PES 14, the ALDE 6 and the Greens 3.
· In fact, the PPE won 264 seats ie a net loss of 6 seats, but the British Conservatives (previously members) won 26 seats: thus combined, there is a net gain of 20 seats. The PES won 161 seats, a net loss of 42. The ALDE won 80 seats, a net loss of 14. The Greens won 53 seats, a net gain of 12.
· Membership of the remaining groups is in a state of flux, and the composition of the political groups will not be finalised for some days. The UEN won 35 seats, the UEL 32, the Independent Democrats 18 and Others (including the UK Conservatives) 93.
· The new EP composition is more fragmented with the two biggest groups receiving 57.8% (including the UK Conservatives) of the votes instead of 64.3%, and the biggest three 68.7% instead of 77.0%. However, the new Alliance of Socialists & Democrats for Europe (ACDE) increases the size of the group to 182 and the percentages of the biggest two and three groups to 60.7% and 71.6% respectively.
· The Centre Right won in all of the biggest countries.
· Government parties were defeated in two of these (Spain & UK) and in 12 Member States in all.
· Centre-right is the colour of the biggest parties in all six large Member States, except the UK.
· These results are confusing. On the one hand, it appears that governments were, on the whole, not being blamed for the economic recession. On the other hand, the centre-left seems to be trusted less than the centre-right in managing the economy.
· The extreme right and also the anti-EU parties made serious gains, but the extreme left lost out.
· The Irish governing party Fianna Fail lost badly to the opposition Fionna Gael. This may weaken the likelihood of a ‘Yes’ vote in the second Irish referendum, although the opposition Fianna Gael also supports an affirmative result.
· Declan Ganley’s party, Libertas, fared abysmally. He was not elected and will not campaign in the second Irish referendum.
· It is too early to say whether the new MER: Movement of European Reform group, formed by the UK Conservatives, will have members from at least seven states, the minimum required.
· Valuable MEPs who lost include Richard Corbett (UK Socialist), Glyn Ford (UK Socialist) and Erika Mann (German Socialist).
· Of the 736 members elected, 160 are new. 184 members of the old parliament will not return.
· The falling voters’ turnout since the first election in 1979 has been in inverse proportion to Parliament’s increased powers and influence.
· The extreme right and anti-EU parties are likely to be disruptive, but serious debate, if covered fairly by the media, could help the public understand better the EU.
· More left-right politics are to be expected.
· The social dimension may be weakened, but it must be borne in mind that social policy is important in traditional Christian Democrat politics, and the Socialist group vote will be needed to ensure an absolute majority for the second reading of proposed directives.Author : Stanley Crossick