May the odds be in whose favour during the European Parliamentary elections?

by | Jun 4, 2024

Predicting the results of the 2024 European Parliamentary elections is not possible, as it involves numerous variables and uncertainties. However, various opinion polls and seat projections provide insights into potential outcomes based on current trends and data. Some polls suggest a potential increase in seats for far-right/extreme parties in certain regions, such as the Netherlands, Germany or Hungary. Seat projections from different sources also present varying forecasts for the distribution of seats among the political groups within the European Parliament. These are based on current public opinion and can change as the election date approaches. It’s important to remember that these are just predictions and the actual results may vary once the votes are counted.

Here, we try to make an additional prediction based on the various political groups and possible voter turnout, while working with the results of our own, directly collected – non-comprehensive – data as well.

European Parliamentary political groups now and after the elections

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), who share similar political ideologies, organise their work into so-called parliamentary groups. These groups are organised on ideological similarities rather than national/member state representations. Each of these groups represent a spectrum of political parties from across the EU member states and work together to shape legislation and policy within the European Parliament.

To form such a political group, some specific requirements have to be met: at least 25 MEPs are needed who shall be elected from at least one quarter of the EU member states (currently meaning at least seven different member states). Members not belonging to any political groups are known as “non-attached” or “non-inscrits”.

The relevance of belonging to a political group is given by the fact that this is somewhat the “entry to relevance” in work of MEPS: key positions within the European Parliament’s structures are allocated to the groups, and groups are entitled to higher funding that makes it possible to employ more staff and finance parliamentary activities, which is usually not available for non-inscrits. As a result of this, forming a parliamentary group has become of strategic importance for those political forces who seriously wish to influence legislation – and logically, these political groups in the European Parliament usually correlate with existing European political parties. Additionally, they can also include members from other national parties or independent politicians on an ad hoc basis.

European elections – and movement of MEPs caused by them – affect the influence of these various groups, having a direct influence on EU policies and legislation. We have to take a look at the upcoming elections and make an attempt to predict various possible changes.

The main political groups in the current European Parliament, and possible changes related to them are the following.

The European People’s Party Group (EPP) is a centre-right, pro-European political group. It is the largest and the oldest group of the EP, having been in existence since June 1953, from the Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community. It is composed of politicians of Christian-democratic, conservative, and liberal-conservative orientation. It is committed to create a stronger and self-assured Europe, built at the service of its people, to create a more competitive and democratic Europe, where people can build the life they want. As one of the most dominant groups, it usually plays a crucial role in shaping European policies and legislation. The parliamentary group sometimes includes independent MEPs and/or deputies from unaffiliated national parties. Before 2024, it has lost some of its members and is generally seen as being threatened by the upcoming populist right-wing political movements, posing a challenge to moderate right all over the European political scene. This may lead to its relative weakening in the light of the EP election results. At the same time, these losses may be compensated by some serious wins in numbers: depending on the post-election negotiations among political parties, the EPP group may be reinforced by new political actors and even members of the political movement of Georgia Meloni (the Italian prime minister) may find a way to the EPP (as a result of the tensions on the extreme right wing of European politics). Altogether, we do not see a serious weakening of the EPP group, probably it will stay to be the dominant actor in European politics..

The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) is the other major political group in the European Parliament. It was officially founded as a Socialist Group on 29 June 1953, making it the second oldest political group in the European Parliament after the EPP Group. Its current name was adopted on 23 June 2009. The group maintains a centre-left orientation, composed mostly of social-democratic parties. Until the 1999 European elections, it was the largest group in the Parliament, since then, it has been the second largest. The group is committed to social democracy, progressivism, and pro-Europeanism. According to our predictions, these values and the position of the group will stand firm after the election. Some weakening is going to appear, as some MEPs and some member state parties are going to lose positions, but the sheer weight and influence of the group (and its background alliance) is going to make sure not to lose its dominant role, at least not for now.

The Renew Europe Group positions itself as a liberal, pro-European political group in the European Parliament. It finds itself at the centre of the political spectrum, with some members leaning towards centre-left and others towards centre-right. Its arguments include ideological elements of liberalism, social liberalism, conservative liberalism, and classical liberalism. The group is associated with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party and the European Democratic Party (EDP), its original name reflecting this: the group is the successor to the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group, which was founded for the ninth European Parliament term after the 2019 European elections, by forming an alliance with French President Emmanuel Macron’s “Renaissance” electoral list. The group focuses on fighting for freedom, rule of law, civil rights, economic growth, and aims to promote European values, sometimes leaning towards federalist ideas. Unfortunately for this group, probably it will be among the biggest losers in the light of the predictable results of the election.

The Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA) is a political group in the European Parliament that represents green, regionalist, and minority political interests. It is a fairly new group, which was formed following the 1999 European elections to accommodate the new “trends” in European politics. Currently, it consists of five, fairly distinct European political parties: the larger European Green Party (EGP), part of the European Free Alliance (EFA), the European Pirate Party (PPEU), Volt Europa (Volt), and part of Animal Politics EU. Its political position is dominated by the left, that ranges from centre-left to left-wing, with a focus on green politics, regionalism, minority politics, and pro-Europeanism. Politically speaking, it suffers from the same hardships as the Renew group: it is not easy to bring complex issues into modern politics operating with simplified messages. This, combined with the lack of a clear ideological – and organisational – base may easily and most probably will lead to a weakening after the elections, as many polls predict it losing even more than the Renew group – as our polls show as well to the question “Who will be the biggest “loser” of the elections?”:

“Who will be the biggest loser?”

In the end, it would not be a surprise to see a closer Renew-Greens inter-group cooperation, even if not a unification – some ideological differences still would be an obstacle to that.

The Identity and Democracy Group (ID) is a political group in the European Parliament, usually being seen as the representative of the European extreme right wing movements. It was launched after the 2019 EP elections, and is known for its – or its parties’ – often nationalist, right-wing populist, and eurosceptic positions (emphasizing the importance of national identities, sovereignty, and democracy, opposing immigration and being extremely hostile towards potential new accessions to the EU). The most important of them are Italy’s Lega party and the Rassemblement National in France, but it is attractive to many other smaller parties on the extreme right.

The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group is currently known for its centre-right stance, advocating for euro-realism/scepticism and advocating member states’ sovereignty. The ECR was founded in 2009, based on those MEPs from the ranks of the British conservatives who had left the EPP criticising it for being “too pro-EU”, during a highly uncertain pre-Brexit political period (starting much earlier, but leading inevitably to the Brexit), desperately looking for new allies to form their own group. MEPs from the UK have traditionally played a dominant role within the EPP, and suddenly finding themselves in a “pariah” position after the 2009 elections was highly unusual, so their attempt of creating a new group meant a possibility for previously disregarded political forces to become part of “European political mainstream”, most notably the MEPs from the Polish PiS, who earlier had not been able to get accepted into any other groups. Today, the argument is that the ECR group consists of MEPs who are committed to a serious EU reform, who oppose unchecked, deeper European integration, and who wish to make sure that member states retain significant sovereignty over their own affairs. Ideologically, the group can be identified today as eurosceptic and anti-federalist, with a range of political views from centre-right to far-right, including populist elements (putting emphasis on questions like migration and bureaucracy).

Depending on the actual results of the election, the major question will be the status of the ID and the ECR. A possible integration of these groups has been on the table for a long time but it has practically been made impossible by serious differences in some major questions – if these can be worked out, a major new political group can emerge from the political struggle. But it is subject to the results and some movements that those can initiate. E.g. the results of the Hungarian governing party (out of the EPP, currently serving as non-inscrit MEPs) and the willingness/desire to join a group of those MEPs (probably between 10-12) and the willingness of Viktor Orbán to accept some conditions (e.g. related to Ukraine) from the constituent parties may make a serious difference. Currently, we do not see that happening, but that is a highly probable option for the near future.

Voter turnout and its effect

Voter turnout in European Parliamentary elections has varied over the years. Unfortunately, the historical process has shown a constant decline from the first elections in 1979 until 2014. However, there was an increase in voter turnout in the 2019 elections, which was the highest since 1994. The main reason for this change was that voters were finally able to identify an issue that they were interested in with an identifiable genuine connection to European politics, namely migration. Additionally, other European issues have grown into the attention spectrum of the “general European”, which has led to a higher turnout. (Some recent data: 2004 saw a 45.47% voter turnout, 2009 produced a 42.97% turnout, 2014 brought 42.61%. 2019 saw 50.66%, a significant raise.)

It is not easy to predict this year’s voter turnout. These figures are subject to change with each election, as various factors can influence them, including political awareness, national political culture, affiliation to the European Union, and the context of the election.

The latest parliamentary period has not produced political issues of the same gravity: even if COVID19 and the war in Ukraine have been serious issues, the general European political audience has not seen those as “European” issues, where “Europe” should produce a solution. As a result of this, the effects pushing voter turnout higher in 2019 will not apply this year, which might mean a lower turnout, even if this is far more pessimistic than our own poll under the question “What kind of turnout do You expect?”:

“What kind of turnout do You expect?”

This lower turnout will lead to “business as usual” in the EP. Smaller parties with more extreme messages, with smaller but more disciplined audiences will gain seats in the European Parliament, leading to a slight weakening of mainstream political powers and some strengthening of more extreme parties.

Conclusion and final predictions

This aspect can be our final conclusion as well: smaller parties with more disciplined supporters will gain seats and a somewhat disproportionate representation in the European Parliament, while mainstream political powers will lose a bit of influence. Will that lead to a landslide victory of political forces currently on the periphery and a major change in European politics? Surely not. Even if some of those may profit from the results, the central political powers of the EP will still be able to integrate them if needed – see e.g. the movements of Italy’s Meloni towards the EPP group.

So even if the earth is going to shake a bit, the buildings of the European political castle will stand firm and no serious change is to be expected.

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