Thursday 11 June 2009

European Parliament: Two mainstream majorities

The overall results of the European Parliament election results shifted only marginally yesterday, with the recount awarding one MEP to the Greens at the expense of the PES (provisional results 10 June 2009 12:20 CEST).

The European Citizen has written a thoughtful post on the power balance and prospects in: The Battle for the Commission Presidency (10 June 2009).

The results of the vote counting are probably almost final, so the potential changes will have to do more with how the political groups are formed.

Beyond the question of the vote for the Commission President and the various internal EP posts, the European Parliament needs a majority of its constituent members to amend legislative proposals: 369 out of 736 MEPs.

Let us assume that the mainstream groups prefer to work with each other, instead of courting the fringe groups (which have yet to materialise). In that case there would be one constant and two possible variations (with the numbers we have today).

Indispensable EPP

In each case, there is no going around the Group of the European People’s Party (EPP), the largest political group with 264 representatives.

Grand coalition

The traditional “grand alliance” would add the Socialist Group in the European Parliament (PES), which is second largest with 161 members of the EP.

This alternative reflects the current coalition government in Germany, but there it seems to be in its dying days. It is also possible that the socialists, social democrats and Labour movements at European level feel the need to rebuild their political message, without being tainted by daily compromises.

Non-socialist coalition

It looks probable that the German voters will offer the Christian Democrats and the Liberals a mandate at the next election. In German terms this would be a black-yellow coalition, but in the EP blue-yellow (incidentally like the Swedish Council Presidency).

The problem is that in the European Parliament a coalition of the EPP and the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) would fall short of the needed majority (by 25 votes at the present time; as it happens, the exact number of the emigrating UK Conservatives).

The Greens made a strong showing in the European elections, so it would be an acknowledgement of the vote to include them in a coalition. With the Greens on board, an EPP-ALDE-Green coalition would represent 397 votes, which attains the needed majority.

But the Greens have campaigned with a view to build a coalition with the PES. They have resisted the appointment of Barroso. A shift in alliances might not go down well with their MEPs or voters, despite the obvious advantages.

Jokers in the pack?

The decisive issue will be, where the EPP finds its future partners. For them the ideal would be to entice into their group a sufficient number from the ranks of nationalists and others, MEPs who at the present time are labelled as Others, UEN or IND/DEM. The second option might be a permanent understanding without group membership.

Here the EPP competes with the nationalist ‘European Conservatives’, who have already bagged 49 MEPs and are looking for representatives from at least four additional member states to be able to form a group.

Neither the EPP nor the ‘European Conservatives’ can contemplate recruiting the most xenophobic and fascistoid elements among the remaining 97 MEPs, so the remaining options are fairly slim for both of them.

We are still waiting for the fat lady to sing.

Ralf Grahn

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