This May’s European elections could see a reversal of forces in the European Parliament, with the center-left becoming the largest group and anti-EU parties also gaining ground, according to an aggregation of polls from the European Union’s 28 member states released Wednesday.
The Socialists & Democrats will win 221 seats, ahead of the European People’s Party with 202 seats, said PollWatch2014, which ran polls from EU member states compiled over the past two weeks through its own prediction model. That would still leave the S&D far short of a majority of the next Parliament’s 751 seats, but would be a big blow for the EPP, which currently has 274 of 766 delegates.
PollWatch, which is funded by the European Parliament, the Open Society Foundations and private consultancy Burson-Marsteller, says that during the last European elections in 2009, its model correctly predicted 720 of the then 736 seats (seats have since gone up due to the accession of Croatia) won by each political group and 660 of the seats won by each national party.
Of course an aggregate poll more than three months ahead of the May 23-25 vote won’t get the Socialists’ lead candidate Martin Schulz to bring out the bubbly quite yet. But the results nevertheless give some interesting pointers.
Six parties identified as “radical right,” including France’s National Front and the Dutch PVV, will gain 38 delegates, PollWatch predicted. If their alliance can pick up at least one delegate from another member state it would surpass the threshold of at least 25 members from seven countries needed to form a parliamentary group. Such group status gives delegates extra funding and rights, such as spearheading negotiations on specific laws.
In general, the next Parliament looks set to be more divided and polarized. The three centrist groups – S&D, EPP and the Alliance of Liberals, known as Alde – will hold only 65% of seats, down from 72% currently, PollWatch forecasts. And the United Left (characterized as “radical left” by PollWatch) would overtake the Greens, with 56 MEPs over the Greens’ 44. In total, PollWatch says 29% of seats “are likely to be won by parties that are either critical of, or radically opposed to, the EU.” Those parties are from the “radical left,” the “radical right,” the European Conservatives and Reformists and “non-attached” lawmakers, PollWatch says. In other words, everyone but EPP, S&D, ALDE and the Greens.
PollWatch’s predictions are interesting for another reason. The Parliament and all main European parties are for the first time nominating lead candidates for this year’s vote, with the promise that the winning candidate should then become president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive.
However, a split result, where a solid majority can only be built by the two main parties, may also create an opening for European leaders, who get to nominate the new commission for approval by Parliament, to select alternative candidates.