High-profile ‘casualties’ in European Parliament elections

Sir Graham Watson [eurodéputé ADLE]. Strasbourg, 2012. [Alberto Novi /Flickr]

Many high-profile MEPs have been re-elected, but a significant number of them have been less lucky and have failed in their attempt to enter the new European Parliament. The EURACTIV network reports about the most prominent election casualties.

MEPs have been exchanging emails and messages of congratulations, but also of regrets, following the European elections held between 22 and 25 May.

Some MEPs who failed to be re-elected said the messages sometimes sounded as “condolences”, although many candidates who failed to be re-elected have no intention to quit politics.

In the UK, the heaviest casualties are seen among the Liberal democrats, who were decimated from 11 MEPs to a single seat.

>> Read: British influence will wane in new EU Parliament

Sir Graham Watson, an MEP since 1994 and the President of the ALDE party, was one of the highest profile casualties. Andrew Duff, an MEP since 1999 and a well-known constitutionalist and federalist, also lost his seat. In theory, nothing prevents Watson from continuing to chair the ALDE party, so at least his many Brussels friends would not miss him.

In France, the former president of the French socialists in the European Parliament, Catherine Trautmann, has failed to be re-elected in her constituency of Eastern France. A former mayor of Strasbourg, Trautmann is an iconic figure of the French left. She was not helped by a decision from the French Socialist Party to put the former trade unionist Edouard Martin top of the list, a decision which appeared to have benefited the far-right Front National, which logged one of its best scores in the region.

Green MEP Sandrine Bélier, who headed the list for the French Greens in the same region and failed to get re-elected, appears to be another casualty of the rise of the Front National.

Corinne Lepage, a former environment minister in France, was another high-profile casualty. The MEP ran for the centrist party MoDem in 2009, but appeared isolated after she quit the party to continue as an independent MEP.

‘To out-stink a skunk’

A high-profile casualty in Germany is Bernd Posselt. The politician from the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) is a dinosaur in European politics, having served as an MEP for 20 years. Being president of the German branch of the International Paneuropean Union, Posselt has established himself as a staunch advocate of the European idea within his own party and its sister, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

It was this passion for the EU that made him fall: His party only ranked him 6th on the candidate list for the EU elections and decided to run a predominantly Eurosceptic election campaign. After the disappointing election results, Posselt criticised his party’s campaign for having missed the chance to take a hard stance against the Eurosceptic Alternative für Deutschland (AfD): “One should never try to out-stink a skunk”, he said. 

In Italy, several MEPs from Berlusconi’s Party of Freedom are seen as high-profile casualties, but most enjoy good notoriety in their country rather than in Brussels and Strasbourg. Among them are Clemente Mastella (former Justice Minister), Iva Zanicchi (former singer), Gianfranco Micciché (former minister), Alessandro Cecchi Paone (former showman).

Roberta Angelilli, a former Vice President of the European Parliament and member of its Bureau, is perhaps better known in EU circles. She left Berlusconi’s party for the New Centre-right (Nuovo Centrodestra), but failed to get elected as MEP.

In Poland, high-profile casualties include MEPs Pawe? Zalewski (EPP) and Pawe? Kowal (ECR), both prominent speakers on eastern policy issues, and especially on Ukraine.

In the Czech Republic, two MEPs are regarded as high-level casualties: Old?ich Vlasák (ECR), who has held the post of Vice-President of the European Parliament (ECR), and Libor Rou?ek, who was Vice-President of the group of Socialists and Democrats (S&D).

In Bulgaria, the highest casualty is Ivailo Kalfin, a former Deputy Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister, who represented the S&D group in the talks for the 2014-2020 EU budget. Last January, Kalfin left the group of the Bulgarian socialists in the European Parliament due to political disagreements with Bulgarian socialist leader Sergei Stanishev. He ran for election leading the list of ABV, the Alternative for a Bulgarian Renaissance, a new political force. ABV obtained 4%, less than the almost 6% threshold needed to elect an MEP. However this percentage is enough for the new party to be represented in the next national parliament.

“I won’t be an MEP in the next European Parliament”, Kalfin wrote in his blog, adding: “But I don’t regret my choice, because I consider politics as a way to serve society and not to seek posts”. 

Despite a rise in anti-European parties, political balances remained broadly unchanged in the European Parliament following the elections held between 22 and 25 May, with the centre-right and centre-left parties on track for a grand coalition.

The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) won 221 seats in the European parliament, followed by the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), with 189 seats (out of 751).

In the last European election, the EPP won 265 seats and the S&D 184. The Parliament was slightly larger at the time, counting a total of 766 seats.

This is the fourth consecutive victory for the EPP since the 1999 election and another disappointment for the Socialists, who failed to reverse the balance of power in Parliament, despite the popular resentment over austerity.

The centrist liberal groups could got 59 seats, Green parties 52 and the right-wing Conservatives and Reformist group, 46.

The far-left obtained 45 seats, while the far-right Europe of Freedom and Democracy group got 38.

The big question mark relates to the 41Non-attached MEPs and the 60 “other” MEPs who do not yet belong to any political grouping. Most of those belong to populist and extremist parties hostile to European integration.

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