#EUelections2019: Winners and Losers

Greek Prime Minister and Syriza leader, Alexis Tsipras, after the European parliamentary elections in Athens on 26 May 2019. [EPA-EFE/SIMELA PANTZARTZI]

As EU leaders prepare for what is likely to be a protracted period of negotiating a majority in the fragmented new European Parliament,  EURACTIV looks at the winners and losers of the European elections held in the 28 member states.

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WINNERS

Europe, (kind of). While pessimists had been crying wolf ahead of the polls, warning of a looming nationalist surge across the bloc, the results, in the end, were not as bad as expected. Communicating Europe has proved key in these elections, and compared to five years ago, most political parties and institutions had indeed upped their efforts. The voter turnout, projected at 50,5%, is the highest in 20 years – nearly every second European citizen cast their vote.

‘Progressive alliance’/Green Wave. While the two big groups, EPP and S&D suffered losses, the Greens were the biggest surprise, increasing their number of seats to 67 from 50, thanks to a strong showing in Germany and France, giving rise to the term “Green Wave”. Together with French President Emmanuel Macron’s ALDE+, they could outflank the conservative EPP group, which won the largest number of seats.

Enfant terribles. Although far-right Eurosceptic parties fell short of reaching one-third of all MEPs as they wished, some key figures had the last laugh. The biggest individual winner was the EPP’s Hungarian “bad boy” Viktor Orban, whose Fidesz party won more than 52% of votes, confirming his iron grip on power. Same goes for his ideological brother-in-arms in Warsaw, Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński, as the PiS secured 45.6% of the vote. In Rome, Italian vice Matteo Salvini essentially doubled in size to 70-75 seats with its Lega party. In France, Marine Le Pen won the narrowest of victories over Macron in an upset to both the domestic and European ambitions, but enough to demand a snap election.

Voters’ short memory. In Austria, the big winner of the European elections is Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. In the midst of a government crisis over a corruption scandal of his coalition partner, his party, the ÖVP, increased its share of the vote by 7% will thus have up to 7 seats in the new European Parliament. Despite this result, Kurz might still have to resign as Chancellor today. Meanwhile, in the Czech Republic, the ANO party of populist Prime Minister Andrej Babis won the most votes despite the fact that Babis is facing fraud charges involving the use of EU funds. The same goes for Bulgaria’s PM Boyko Borissov whose GERB reasserted itself despite recent scandals.

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LOSERS

Hellas’ leader. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, following massive defeats to the conservative opposition New Democracy party (EPP) in EU and local elections, announced snap elections, most probably due on 30 June. In addition to the EU elections’ disaster, the regional and local elections that took place simultaneously dealt another blow to the ruling party. The tragic turn: Praised by the world community for sealing the name change deal with North Macedonia, the so-called Prespa Agreement, Tsipras got the domestic bait for it. He is even a double loser as Greek people brought back the party that led the country into the financial crisis, which he was attempting to fight. To be fair, the whole European Left saw a drop in their representation, going from 52 to 39 seats.

Poland’s opposition. The Polish opposition movement European Coalition, comprised of the Civic Platform (PO), formerly led by European Council President Donald Tusk, and a group of leftist and rural parties reached a hefty 38,3%, but was still behind the ruling PiS. The fact that the united opposition still did not manage to trump the governing party is a defeat in itself. The narrow result directly puts the two camps on a collision course for the national polls in autumn, which for now does not bode well for the opposition camp.

Some Socialists. For the Social-Democrat party (SPD) top candidate Katarina Barley, the European elections ended in a fiasco – and in a way that is even worse than expected: the party reached just over 15%, down from 27.3% five years ago. Romania’s pro-European parties inflicted a serious defeat on Romania’s ruling Social Democrats (PSD). According to these results, the PSD obtained 23.38% of the vote, a sharp drop from the 37.6% they won in 2014.

Kingmaker, but no king. Emmanuel Macron may well become the kingmaker in the alliance-building talks in Europe, but in France, his Renaissance ended up just behind his worst enemy, Eurosceptic, far-right Marine Le Pen.

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EXTRAWURST

Britain. While the UK’s divisions over Brexit make the whole country something of a loser, winners include Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party, which comfortably topped the poll, as well as the pro-Remain Liberal Democrat and Green parties, which also posted historically strong results.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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