Monday 8 June 2009

European elections 2009: What happens next?

The European Parliament election results are provisional, but almost final results can be expected during the day.

Four out of ten EU citizens voted in these elections (43.09%), continuing the downward trend in turnout.


Left failed

Politically, I find the weakening of the centre-left (PES) and left (GUE/NGL) parties most astounding for the long term. In the middle of a financial crisis and a deep economic recession, the mainly opposition left parties failed to put forward a candidate for the Commission Presidency and to convince voters on alternative economic and social policies.

Only one out of four (about 26.3%) voted left, although the PES will remain the second largest political group in the European Parliament (159 MEPs); GUE/NGL 33 seats.

Source: European Parliament: Results of the 2009 European elections (provisional 8 June 2009 03:07 CEST).


Governable EP

The mainstream centre-right group of the European People’s Party seems set to remain the dominant group in the EP, with 267 seats (36.3% of the total).

The new European Parliament is governable. Taken together, the “constructive” or mainstream groups – EPP, PES, ALDE, Greens – would total 558 seats, or more than three quarters of the MEPs (75.8%), based on historical affinities, but the gains were generally made by hard or extreme right parties.


New political groups

Before the new European Parliament convenes on 14 July 2009, intense negotiations are going to take place to form the political groups, which are the instruments for parliamentary work.

Changes will take place among the nationalist right.

Especially the large group Others (90 seats), which includes the UK Conservatives, and UEN (Union for Europe of the Nations), with 35 seats, and IND/DEM (Independence/Democracy Group), with 20 MEPs, will see considerable movement.

The anti-federalist coalition announced by the UK Conservative Party (24 MEPs according to the BBC), the ultra-conservative Polish Law and Justice Party (PiS, Kaczynski twins) with 16 seats and the Czech ODS (Topolanek, ex Klaus) with 9 MEPs, already has 49 MEPs in the bag. It will encounter no problems with the minimum size of a political group (25), but it needs members from at least four additional member states.

The anti-federalists will have to find their new friends among the remaining 96 MEPs, who represent a wide variety of national populist and protest parties, some of them fascist and racist.

For the sake of propriety, the British Conservatives have to draw a line somewhere, but they will probably take on board enough allies to get the group formed.

For the UK Conservative Party the European Parliament is of secondary importance. They are doing all they can to expedite the demise of Gordon Brown’s Labour government, and to win the next general election.

In government, the Tories can start to put European integration in reverse gear, by demanding repatriation of powers, rejecting the Lisbon Treaty and blocking progress. Nobody seems to doubt the outcome of the next UK general election, but the timing of the election and the possible entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon have profound consequences for Europe.


Barroso Commission

The EPP will have to look for support in order to secure a majority for José Manuel Barroso as the President of the Commission. Under the Treaty of Nice, a simple majority is enough, but the EPP is about 102 votes short if they want to be on the safe side.

On the other hand, it is difficult to know how many of the British, Portuguese and Spanish PES MEPs (and perhaps others) are going to vote for Barroso in line with their party leaders and members of the European Council, which will put forward Barroso, probably on 18 to 19 June 2009.

Even theoretically it would be difficult to build a sufficient anti-Barroso coalition, to say nothing about a constructive alliance for a specific alternative candidate, although Guy Verhofstadt and Mario Monti have been mentioned.

Ralf Grahn

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