Juncker vote reveals Socialist divisions in Parliament

Pedro Sánchez [PSOE]

Spanish Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez. [PSOE]

A dissident group of 32 MEPs amongst the Socialists & Democrats group in the European Parliament didn’t support Jean-Claude Juncker’s new Commission, according to data by Votewatch Europe.

Jean-Claude Juncker’s new Commission won the support of the European Parliament yesterday (22 October) with 423 votes in favour, 209 against, and 67 abstentions.

Votewatch Europe provides insight into how legislators voted, revealing a dissident group of 30 MEPs amongst the Socialists, which didn’t support Juncker.

According to Parliament’s rules, MEPs voted electronically, and their individual vote is public. Overall, 89% of MEPs voted along party lines. Votewatch Europe reveals the following results by country:

  • Austria: The centre-left S&D, the centre-right EPP and liberal MEPs  voted in favour, according to their group leaders’ instructions. The two Green MEPs have voted against, also according to the group’s decision. All four MEPs from the extremist Party of Freedom have voted against.
  • Bulgaria: A remarkable exception is S&D MEP Georgi Pirinski, who was the only of the four Bulgarian Socialist MEPs to abstain. All Bulgarian EPP and liberal MEPs voted in favour, and 2 MEPs affiliated with the conservative ECR group, Nikolai Barekov and Angel Dzhambazki, abstained.
  • Croatia: No surprises, the MEPs affiliated with EPP, S&D and the liberal group voted in favour, the only Green MEP voted against, and the only MEP from ECR abstained.
  • Cyprus: A remarkable exception is S&D MEP Costas Mavrides, who abstained, with the other Cypriot S&D MEP Demetris Papadakis voting in favour. The only remaining EPP MEP voted in favour (the second one, Christos Stylianides didn’t vote, as he became commissioner). The two leftist GUE-NGL MEPs voted against, according to the group’s instructions.
  • Czech Republic: No surprises, except one of the two ECR affiliated MEPs, Jan Zahradil, voting against (the ECR policy was to abstain). All Czech S&D, EPP, ALDE and GUE-NGL affiliated MEPs voted according to party instructions.
  • Denmark: All four Danish ECR-affiliated MEPs voted against Juncker, while the group’s policy was to abstain. S&D, EPP, ALDE and Green MEPs voted according to the groups’ instructions.
  • Estonia: The only surprise is that the only Green MEP, Indrek Tarand, abstained, instead of voting against.
  • Finland: The country’s two ECR-affiliated MEPs, Jussi Halla-Aho and Sampo Terho voted against, instead of following the group’s line to abstain.  
  • France: Four MEPs voted against their group’s instructions: EPP-affiliated Rachida Dati voted against Juncker, as well as three Socialists: Guillaume Balas, Edouard Martin and Emmanuel Maurin.
  • Germany: S&D affiliated Dietmar Köster voted against while another S&D MEP, Petra Kemmerevert, abstained. ECR-affiliated MEPs Hans-Olaf Henkel and Bernd Kölmel voted against instead of abstaining and ECR-affiliated Arne Gericke voted in favour. Another remarkable exception is ALDE-affiliated MEP Alexander Graf Lambsdorf who abstained, instead of supporting the Juncker team.
  • Greece: The only “rebel” MEP is Notis Marias, ECR-affiliated, who voted against instead of abstaining.
  • Hungary: No surprises, all MEPs voted according to their groups’ instructions.
  • Ireland: Only one rebel, S&D-affiliated Nessa Childers voted against.
  • Italy: Two S&D affiliated MEPs acted as rebels. Sergio Gaetano Cofferati voted against while Silvia Costa, abstained.
  • Latvia: Two surprises: MEP Andrejs Mamikins from S&D voted against and MEP Iveta Grigule from the anti-EU EFDD group voted in favour.
  • Lithuania: One surprise: MEP Valentinas Mazuronis from the anti-EU EFDD group voted in favour.
  • Luxembourg: Five MEPs from this country voted according to their group’s instructions.
  • Malta: The country’s six MEPs voted according to their group’s instructions.
  • Netherlands: All MEPs voted according to their group’s instructions.
  • Poland: Three surprises: S&D-affiliated MEP Krystyna Lybacka abstained, and two ECR-affiliated MEPs, Miroslaw Piotrowski and Marek Jurek, voted against.
  • Portugal: S&D-affiliated MEP Liliana Rodrigues voted against.
  • Romania: All MEPs voted according to their group’s instructions.
  • Slovakia: All MEPs voted according to their group’s instructions.
  • Slovenia: One rebel, Green MEP Igor Šoltes abstained instead of voting against.
  • Spain: The country with the largest number of rebel MEPs. From the 13 S&D MEPs 12 voted against and one didn’t vote. Also, ALDE-affiliated MEP Maite Pagazaurtudua Ruiz abstained, instead of voting in favour.
  • Sweden: Two S&D MEPs, Anna Hedh and Soraya Post, voted agaginst.
  • UK: Eight rebels emerged from this country. S&D-affiliated MEP David Martin abstained. ECR-affiliated MEPs Sajjad Karim, Timothy Kirkhope, Julie Girling and Richard Ashworth voted in favour, while ECR-affiliated Nirj Deva and Daniel Hannan voted against. Green MEP Ian Hudghton voted in favour.

The most dissent is found in the ranks of the centre-left. Overall, 32 S&D MEPs, out of a total of 191, didn’t follow the party line, either abstaining or voting against the Juncker commission. In the case of Spain, this can hardly be seen as a surprise, their leader Pedro Sánchez having recently announced that his MEPs would not support Juncker, as his party is in deep disagreement with the expected economic policies of his team.

>> Read: Spanish socialists to vote against Juncker, Cañete

Similarly, Bulgarian MEP Georgi Pirinski had told EURACTIV that in his view, the Juncker commission is politically unbalanced, with the centre-right being given dominant positions.

>> Read: Juncker gives key portfolios to German allies, austerity backers

However, the mainstream view of the S&D is that the Juncker team must be given a chance, and that the centre-left would be “the critic soul” of the pro-European majority constituted of EPP, S&D and the liberals, according to an expression by the group’s leader Gianni Pitella.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the new President of the European Commission, announced the distribution of portfolios among his new team on 10 September.

>> Read: The new Juncker Commission - as it happened

Juncker's team of 27 commissioners then had to go through a gruelling two weeks of individual approval hearings before the European Parliament committees in charge of overseeing their respective portfolios.

All were accepted except for Slovenia’s Alenka Bratušek who was replaced by Violetta Bulc, an unusual character with only three days of government experience who trained as a shaman and is able to walk on fire.

>> Read: Bulc walks on fire… and survives

And while Hungary’s Tibor Navracsics also received the Parliament's green light, it was only on the condition that his Education, Culture, and Youth portfolio would be stripped of its "citizenship" aspect.

  • 1 Nov. 2014: Juncker Commission due to begin work

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