Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is splitting the EPP. But by doing so, he could actually save Europe from a nightmare scenario: the centre-right and the far-right forging a Eurosceptic majority coalition in the next European Parliament.
According to the latest projections, the EPP, together with the current ECR, EFDD and ENF groups, plus 30+ others on the far-right side, could command a majority of more than 360 in the 706-seat post-Brexit parliament.
If Orbán leaves the EPP, it will not be a tectonic shift. He will join the ECR, and the EPP and the ECR will be friends. The same coalition, just slightly reshuffled.
But if Orbán persists in staying with the EPP, or if he doesn’t get expelled in the coming weeks, several national parties could be pushed to abandon the mothership. Where will they go? There are other sailboats more to the centre, in particular, Macron’s Renaissance flotilla.
And then the balance of power will shift. The “progressives”, or whatever name they will choose, will have a majority over the black and blue camp.
The bottom line is that it’s all about ideology. There are national parties within the EPP family with little affinity on many issues. Possibly a majority are right-leaning. But a minority of EPP members are much more centrist and faithful to traditional values of the grouping.
This division was highlighted by the internal Spitzenkandidaten contest. The vote that elected Manfred Weber gave 20% to Alexander Stubb, the Finnish candidate who could hardly be more different than Weber. Yes, it’s the same division. Orbán was, and remains, the dividing line.
In individual countries, there is often more than one party affiliated to EPP. But ideologically, the differences are exactly the same.
And in the same country, one or more are in the Orbán camp (in Eastern Europe many see him as a hero), while others fear that their voters will punish them because of the dangerously close relationship with the Victator.
If one-fifth of the future MEPs from the EPP were to side with Macron’s force, before or after the European elections, it would be a game-changer. It would be a nightmare scenario for the EPP, but a healthy development for Europe. EPP will survive, but this force, which has contributed a lot to the European project, needs some soul-searching.
So let’s keep our fingers crossed that Orbán stays in the EPP…
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Views are the author’s
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]