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Green and right-wing parties pulled off impressive gains as centrist parties saw abysmal losses in the 2019 EU elections.
With the issue of climate change and the migration crisis dominating discourse, the result was certainly a rather expected one. Over four days last week voters across 28 countries delivered the highest turnout (50.9%) in a European election for 20 years, as they selected new representatives to sit in the European Parliament.
751 seats were contested as party groups tried hard to get close to the 376-seat majority mark.
The European People’s Party (centre-right Christian Democrats), which contains Germany’s CDU formerly led by Angela Merkel, continues its hold on the most seats in parliament. However, their seat share dropped from 217 to 180 (-37).
The Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats (centre-left Social Democrats), containing Germany’s Social Democratic Party, Spain’s Socialist Workers’ Party, and the UK’s Labour Party, retained the number two spot. However, their seat share too saw an abysmal drop from 187 to 146 (-41). The only party that did exceptionally well was Portugal’s Socialist Party.
The EPP and S&D alliance formed the EU Parliament government from 2014-2019, and their failure to deal with climate change and the migration crisis resulted in their horrid performance. However, even the right-wing and far-leftists weren’t spared from the polarizing wrath of the aforementioned issues.
The European Conservatives & Reformists (right-wing Conservatives), containing the UK’s Conservative Party and Poland’s Law & Justice Party, performed poorly as they dropped from 76 to 59 (-17). European United Left (far-left Socialist/Communist Eurosceptics), containing Germany’s Die Linke and Greece’s Syriza, fell from 52 to 39 (-13).
With huge losses for conventional parties (except the United Left), it was clear that the European people faced rising resentment towards the mainstream establishment. Their losses were quickly scooped by the Greens, right-wing, far-right and, rather surprisingly, liberals.
The only centrist group that gained seats was the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), which gained a whopping 41 seats to land at 109. The group is headed by EU’s Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt, who stated that he would dissolve the group to create a new Liberal group with France’s Emmanuel Macron. The UK’s Liberal Democrats also gained, showing increasing discontent with the mainstream Tories and Labour.
The Greens/European Free Alliance jumped from 52 to 69 (+17). The group contains Green and other regional parties such as the UK Green Party, Scottish National Party, regional Spanish parties and Pirate parties. Their stress on the climate issue, along with rising ethno-nationalism (such as Catalonia in Spain), contributed to their rise.
Hard Eurosceptic groups saw sharp rises too. Europe of Freedom & Direct Democracy group led by Brexiteer Nigel Farage climbed from 41 to 54 seats (+13). Farage’s Brexit Party, created only a month ago, managed to amass more votes than the Tories and Labour combined which further highlighted growing discontent with how mainstream parties handled Brexit. The group further consists of Italy’s populist Five-Star Movement and Germany’s far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).
Europe of Nations & Freedom group, the other eurosceptic group with a greater number of far right-wing parties such as France’s National Front led by Marine Le Pen and Italy’s Lega Nord led by PM Matteo Salvini, surged as well. Their seat share skyrocketed from 36 to 58 (+22). Salvini said he will try to form an anti-EU bloc with Marine Le Pen and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.
In total, mainstream establishment centrist parties lost 54 seats while Greens and Eurosceptics picked up 52.
What it all means
The Christian and Social Democrat balance of power has been shaken; they can no longer form a government without the help of another pro-EU group. The Liberals hold the balance of power, but the Greens and Eurosceptics will push their respective agendas very strongly. If the EU can’t handle the issues of climate change and migration, it may soon find itself at odds with the unity it sought to create within its continent.