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Populists shatter EU status Quo with strong showing

The preliminary results from the European Parliamentary elections are in. And just like the polls anticipated, the pro-European status quo has suffered a serious blow.

Winning over 30% of seats, Euro-sceptic parties and anti-establishment groups now control their largest bloc of votes since the first EU Parliamentary election in 1979.

Meanwhile, the long-ruling “grand coalition” of center-right and center-left parties (the EPP, a collection of center right parties, and S&D, a collection of center-left parties) lost its combined majority, though both coalition groups retained a plurality of seats (180, or 24%, for EPP, and 146, or 19.4%, for S&D).

Though pro-European groups together maintain a clear majority, this broad grouping has become increasingly fragmented, which could complicate policy making, while a strong showing from eurosceptics will mount a serious challenge to the status quo, according to a group of analysts from Deutsche Bank.

This shows us two things: first, the pro-European camp has definitely become more fragmented and could not prevent losing some seats to the Eurosceptics who dream if not (anymore) of the end of the EU at least of a substantially different one. Second, pro-Europeans group together will still hold a clear majority of two-thirds of the seats in the next EP. This means: policymaking for them will become more complex and require broader cross-party agreements and discipline. But Eurosceptics will not be able block decisions unless centrist pro-European parties fail to cooperate.

Typically, turnout in the EU Parlia-mentary race is lackluster, similar to that of a (typical) American mid-term election. But this year, turnout surged to its highest level in decades: With a provisional turnout of 51%, the strongest in 25 years, electoral turn-out broke the downward trend of the past decade (that’s compared with 43% in 2014). However, differences in turnout were substantial across EU members, with the UK and Eastern European states recording the lowest turnount.