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Fragmented and polarised Europe emerges from EU vote

The conservative European People’s Party again won the most seats in the European elections on Sunday (26 May) but will face difficulties in building a controlling majority as the Greens, liberals and populists posted big gains, reflecting the ongoing divisions in the bloc

By: EBR - Posted: Monday, May 27, 2019

The Capitals brings you the latest news from across Europe, through on-the-ground reporting by EURACTIV’s media network. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.The conservative European People’s Party again won the most seats in the European elections on Sunday (26 May) but will face difficulties in building a controlling majority as the Greens, liberals and populists posted big gains, reflecting the ongoing divisions in the bloc.
The Capitals brings you the latest news from across Europe, through on-the-ground reporting by EURACTIV’s media network. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.The conservative European People’s Party again won the most seats in the European elections on Sunday (26 May) but will face difficulties in building a controlling majority as the Greens, liberals and populists posted big gains, reflecting the ongoing divisions in the bloc.

By Sarantis Michalopoulos and Sam Morgan

The Capitals brings you the latest news from across Europe, through on-the-ground reporting by EURACTIV’s media network. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

The conservative European People’s Party again won the most seats in the European elections on Sunday (26 May) but will face difficulties in building a controlling majority as the Greens, liberals and populists posted big gains, reflecting the ongoing divisions in the bloc.

LONDON

Remain / Leave divisions. Nigel Farage’s Brexit party stole the show in the EU elections polls, whilst pro-Remain parties also made substantial gains – shining a light on the extent of the UK’s divisions. Farage’s party claimed 32% of the vote and are due to win 29 seats.

BRUSSELS

Belgium’s Black Sunday. Extreme-right Flemish separatist party Vlaams Belang scored major gains in Belgian national elections, tripling its haul compared to 2014 and leaving Brussels a mighty task to form the next national government.

While the Green wave stays out of the cities, the Belgian federal parliament has “never been so massively Flemish-nationalist” with N-VA remaining the largest Flemish party and Vlaams Belang jumping from three to eighteen seats. Although the MR party of Prime Minister Charles Michel came second in Wallonia’s elections, pundits suggest he might be out of a job soon.

At EU level, the country swings even more to the right with Vlaams Belang winning three seats, at the expense of Flemish nationalist N-VA and liberal Open VLD, each losing one seat.

BERLIN

Greens flying high. The Greens from Bundnis90/Die Grunen won big in Germany. They nearly doubled their seats and came in second with 21%, ahead of the Social Democrats. Conservative CDU/CSU, although it haemorrhaged support, remains Germany’s strongest political force. For Social-Democrat party (SPD) top candidate Katarina Barley, the EU elections ended up being a fiasco: the party reached just over 15% compared to 27.3% five years ago.

It’s considered a major blow to SPD leader Andrea Nahles. Heavyweights such as former FM Sigmar Gabriel and former EU Parliament President Martin Schulz hinted she should resign.

PARIS

Le Pen beats Macron. Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) placed first in France getting 23.5% of the vote, followed by Macron’s Renaissance on 22.5%.

Jordan Bardella, head of RN’s EU list, said he planned to build a powerful group in the EU Parliament. Stanislas Guerini, a delegate of LREM, said Renaissance would build a big EU group with the centre at the EU House while joining ALDE.

“The European Parliament has been sleeping lately. The two big groups have not made things move at EU level. We plan to build a central group that will be crucial. We will build majorities around ecological transition,” he said.

The Greens scored 13.1% while the centre-right Les Republicains (EPP) got 8.2%. “Voters have preferred the ones who always fought for ecology,” Green MEP Yannick Jadot said.

Despite the polls’ projections, the Socialists and Melenchon’s leftist France insoumise will also be represented in the next EU Parliament with 6.4% and 6.3% respectively. The Yellow Vests didn’t manage to have anyone elected and seems to have fed the extreme-right rather than extreme-left.

MADRID

Socialists the big winners. Spain’s Socialist Party (PSOE) won the EU elections getting almost 33% of the votes and 20 of Spain’s 54 seats. The Popular Party placed second (EPP) with 20% and 12 seats, while centrist force Ciudadanos got 12% and seven seats. Left-wing Unidas Podemos came fourth with six seats and far-right Vox fifth with three seats. The Catalan separatist parties obtained together almost five seats, Spanish media reported Sunday night.

Also in the regional and local elections, held on the same day, the PSOE obtained a clear victory over its main rivals confirming socialist PM Pedro Sanchez’s leadership, after his victory in the April general elections.

ROME

Salvini triumphs. For the first time ever, Lega has become the first party in Italy to get 34.5% of the votes, followed by centre-left Democratic Party which exceeded expectations with around 23%.

Five Star Movement crumbled to just 16.5%, while Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (8.5%) won its duel with far-right Fratelli d’Italia (6.4%). ALDE’s +Europa did not manage to pass the electoral threshold of 4%.

WARSAW

‘Decisive battle’ in autumn. With a record 43% turnout – the highest since the country joined the EU in 2004 – Poland’s conservative ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) came narrowly ahead of the centrist European Coalition in Sunday’s vote, seen as a litmus test before parliamentary elections later this year.

PiS won 43.1% of the vote compared to 31.8% five years ago – its strongest result at any election. Meanwhile, the opposition European Coalition comprising the Civic Platform (PO), formerly led by EU Council President Donald Tusk, and a group of leftist and rural parties reached 38.4%. This means 28 seats for PiS, 21 for the EC and three for Wiosna.

VIENNA

Kurz wins. The centre-right People’s Party (OVP) of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is on course for gains in the European elections, with the far-right Freedom Party coming third, according to a media forecast published on Sunday (26 May).

BRATISLAVA

Government parties lose. The coalition of new pro-European parties Progressive Slovakia (ALDE) & Together (EPP) won the EU elections in Slovakia, getting 20% of the vote and electing four MEPs: two will go to ALDE, two to EPP.

Socialist Smer-SD (PES) got 15.7% and will have three seats in the EU House while neo-fascist LSNS scored 12% and managed to elect two MEPs. Two more seats will go to the Christian Democrats (EPP), although one only after Brexit, and to SaS (ECR). OLaNO (ECR) will have one MEP, who is of Roma origin.

PRAGUE

Social Democrats disappear. The governing ANO party (ALDE) won the EU elections with 21.18% and got six seats. It was followed by Civic Democrats led by ECR Spitzenkandidat Jan Zahradil (14.54%, four seats), while the Pirates and the pro-European coalition of TOP 09 and Mayors and Independent (EPP) got three seats each.

Far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy (9.14%) and Christian Democrats (7.24%, EPP) got two seats while the communist party (6.94%) elected one MEP. The Social Democrats won’t be represented in the next EP, losing all four seats.

Turnout hit a 28.72% record-high while in 2014 it was just 18.2%.

BUDAPEST

Orban absolute winner. Hungary’s ruling right-wing Fidesz party (EPP) won 52% of the vote. According to PM Victor Orban, Hungarians sent a clear message against migration in Europe.

THE HAGUE

Vote confirmed. Thursday’s exit poll results were confirmed on Sunday, with the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) taking top spot with nearly 20% of the vote. Far-right leader Geert Wilders’ PVV paid the biggest price for the so-called Timmermans effect and impact of Thierry Baudet’s newcomer party FvD, losing all of its seats.

BUCHAREST

Diaspora punishes ruling socialists. In Romania, with almost 97% of the vote counted, the centre-right PNL (EPP) got 26.79% of the vote, followed by ruling socialists PSD (23.38%) and the Alliance 2020 USR PLUS, which will become part of the ALDE group, with 21.40%.

Former PM Victor Ponta’s PRO Romania stands at 6.61% and PMP (EPP), the party of former President Traian Basescu got 5.66%, and UDMR (EPP) 5.45%. USR PLUS enjoyed the 41% of the diaspora support, while PNL got some 31.4% and PMP 9.8%. PSD, which has been heavily criticised by the EU Commission, got only 3.1%.

Meanwhile, the referendum called by President Klaus Iohannis to stop changes in the anti-corruption laws has reached a turnout of more than 40%, safely above the minimum 30% requirement for its validation. Voters were asked two questions: if they want to ban the government from changing judicial legislation via emergency decrees and whether they want a national ban on any amnesty and pardoning for corruption-related crimes.

“This is a clear vote for correct politics, for true justice. No politician can ignore your clear vote for an independent judiciary,” Iohannis said. The referendum is non-binding, but Iohannis has previously said the result will “send a clear signal” to politicians.

Romania has repeatedly locked horns with the European Union over a series of judicial reforms proposed by the PSD ruling party, which Brussels thinks will hinder the fight against corruption.

ATHENS

Conservative Mitsotakis triumphs. Main opposition party New Democracy (EPP) scored 33.5% (seven seats) while leftist Syriza won 24% (six seats), followed by socialist KINAL (S&D) with 7.7% (two seats) and the Communist Party at 5.7% (two seats). Far-right Golden Dawn got 4.8% of the vote (two seats) and newly established right-wing populist Greek Solution stood at 4.2%.

In parallel, New Democracy candidates were the big winners of the local and regional elections as well, dealing another severe blow to Tsipras government.

DiEM 25 of Yannis Varoufakis got one seat. Following the electoral defeat, Tsipras called snap elections in June.

NICOSIA

Conservatives’ narrow victory. Ruling DHSY (EPP) came first with 29% (two seats), followed by AKEL (EU Left) with 27.49% (two seats). DHKO (S&D) got 13.8% and keeps one seat, as well as EDEK (S&D) with 10.6%. Nationalist ELAM with 8.25% loses its seat. The results will make little impact on the political landscape in Cyprus.

SOFIA

Borissov the winner. Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov’s GERB party (EPP-affiliated) won the European elections despite the scandals in which it got involved in recent months. GERB won 30.5%, against 25% for its arch-foe BSP, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (PES-affiliated).

As expected, third is the mostly ethnic Turkish DPS, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (ALDE-affiliated), with 14.5%. The nationalist VMRO party got 7.7%, and the centre-right Democratic Bulgaria 6%. This translates into 7 MEPs from EPP, 5 for PES, 3 for ALDE and 2 for a Eurosceptic group.

Pundits say Borissov made a big personal contribution to the victory, as he got involved very actively in the campaign some 10 days ago when polls were still giving an edge to BSP. Sergei Stanishev, PES leader and fifth on the BSP list, blamed party leader Kornelia Ninova for what he saw as a strategic mistake. BSP MPs left the National Assembly in February and since then have been widely invisible to the public.

ZAGREB

Croatia’s ruling conservative party, HDZ (EPP), only managed to tie with the opposition SDP (S&D) on four seats, after counting on winning six.

PM Andrej Plenkovic handpicked the candidates and this defeat will make it harder for him to reform HDZ into a centrist party as the right-wing faction will be stronger and louder. Plenkovic said that “what has happened is obviously a great dispersion of voices. In such circumstances, it is obvious that some 1,000-1,500 votes were missing for the HDZ for the fifth mandate. I’m not happy with that, but I am pleased that we have gone independently”.

LJUBLJANA

Everything was as expected. Janez Jansa and his EPP coalition (SDS and junior partner SLS) is the winner of the election – like in the parliamentary election in June last year when he won but did not the have coalition potential to form a government.

Social democrats confirmed that they are always here, second or third. And the leading party in the ruling coalition, LMS (ALDE), came third. So, nothing new on the sunny side of the Alps.

 

*First published in euractiv.com

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