It’s game on for the four leading parties coming out of the European Parliament elections, as chances are very slim that any three-party coalition could constitute a stable, or at least comfortable, majority.
With the traditional frontrunners, namely the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and Party of European Socialists (S&D Group in the European Parliament) retaining the top two positions in the new 2019-2024 European Parliament, the Liberal Democrats of ALDE and Macron’s Renaissance, together with the Greens/EFA have now become the key parties necessary for the chamber to establish a democratic coalition.
The 2019 elections had a record-high turnout for over 20 years bringing the number of Europeans that went to the polls to 50,5% of eligible voters.
It is the first time that the centre-right European People’s Party and the Alliance of Progressives of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, namely the S&D, that will not be able to form a “grand coalition” of their own.
Failing to reach a majority, means that certainly ALDE, and most likely the Greens – whose success is projected to fill European Parliament seats after strong performances in Germany and Ireland – will have to agree to form a majority with the weakened big-two. While the four parties arrange talks, the far-right groups in the European Parliament count their marginal victories, colours on the EU map going black in Italy and France, with Matteo Salvini’s Lega championing the Italian vote, and Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (FN) striking a victory with 23,5% against Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique En Marche, standing at 22.5%.
Populist far-right groups gain, however, a lot less ground than initially anticipated by the political analysts, with the advance of the right being less pronounced in Germany, where a strong showing by the Greens produced the story of the night, while the anti-immigrant Alternative for Deutschland broke the 10% barrier.
Spain and Portugal are the only major cases where the S&D is dominant in Europe, with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez celebrating his party topping the polls, a result he will likely use to wield more influence in the bloc. Same goes for the Portuguese premier Antonio Costa, who came out strong from Sunday’s ballots.
Greek PM Alexis Tsipras on the other hand, has called a snap election for the end of June, following EU election results showing the GUE/NGL affiliated party will be defeated by the centre-right Nea Dimokratia by over 9 percentage points.
EPP to use high turnout to secure Weber’s Spitzeknadidat advantage
With the European citizens flocking to the polls more than in the last generation, the EPP Spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber is seeking to become the next European Commission President, at any cost, noticeably having significant similarities in rhetoric with the Greens/EFA candidates Ska Keller and Philippe Lamberts on the first steps of negotiations. “The first steps of negotiations should be content,” agree both parties, with the EPP underlining the need for “stability”.
Programme comes first says Timmermans
“My group lost seats, we have to be humble,” said the S&D Spitzenkandidat Frans Timmermans. Presenting great results from his home country the Netherlands, Timmermans disagreed with Weber’s reading on stability, claiming that the EPP leader just wishes to keep things as they are.
“I am not putting claims,” added Timmermans, accepting that it is the first time for the EPP and the S&D without a majority in the chamber. Timmermans told the chamber, filled with journalists from around the globe, that an alliance progressive forces should first get together and make a programme for Europe’s future, and then decides who will lead that programme as Commission President. Timmermans said he “would be honoured to lead that programme,” but that the process should follow “that order”.
The four main political parties should rush to take the lead in the European Commission president racetrack before the European Council takes its decisive first steps just on Tuesday, 28 May at the Extraordinary Summit.