European Parliament

Just the Facts – European Parliament Elections 2014: An Initial Review

This is the latest Just the Facts in our series about the 2014 European Parliament elections. It is important to note that the figures below are projections as it is currently unclear which groupings some MEPs will join and the level of voter turnout has yet to be officially confirmed.

This Just the Facts edition will also form the basis of a deeper analysis of last week’s European Parliament elections, which European Movement Ireland will publish in the near future. This Report will include:

  • A guide and explanation of the groupings in the Parliament;
  • An examination of the political permutations;
  • Policy issues facing the new Parliament;
  • Results and analysis from each of the 28 Member States;
  • A look at voter turnout across the EU in these European Parliament elections.

Background

From Thursday 22 to Sunday 25 May 2014, voters in the EU’s 28 Member States elected their representatives in the European Parliament; their choices will affect over 500 million EU citizens. Turnout in the election stood at an average of 43.1% across the EU, representing a marginal increase of 0.1% on the 2009 election.

Belgium, where voting is compulsory, recorded 90% attendance, while Slovakia recorded the lowest turnout with just 13% of the electorate voting. According to RTÉ, Ireland’s national broadcaster, voter turnout in Ireland this year stood at 52.4%. This is a drop from 2009, when turnout in Ireland stood at 58.64% according to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

Some 751 people were elected Members of the European Parliament. The number of MEPs has risen this year from the 736 elected in the last election in 2009. This is to reflect Europe’s growing population and the accession of Croatia, which became the EU’s 28th Member State in 2013.

Breakdown of results

The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), of which Ireland’s Fine Gael party is a member, has emerged as the largest party in the European Parliament. According to projections by the European Parliament, the EPP has secured 214 seats. The centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) bloc remains the second largest grouping in the Parliament; it is predicted to have won 191 seats. The Irish Labour Party is a member of this group but for the first time in its history has returned no MEPs.

Despite the wipe-out of the Liberal Democrats in the UK, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) group is projected to remain the third largest grouping in the European Parliament with 64 seats. Fianna Fáil is a member of this group and has returned just one MEP, Brian Crowley. However, returning Independent MEP Marian Harkin is also a member of this group and is the group’s outgoing Vice-President.

It is projected that the Greens–European Free Alliance will return 52 MEPs and the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL), of which Sinn Féin is a member, has elected 45 MEPs. The European Conservatives and Reformists Group, of which the British Conservative Party is a member, has also returned 46 MEPs, while the Eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group, which counts the UK Independence Party (UKIP) among its members, has returned 38 MEPs.

In addition to these results, 101 MEPs have been elected into the “Others” category. Many of these MEPs could look to form a hard-line nationalist group, while it is not clear where parties such as Italy’s Five Star Movement (M5S) will sit.

Talking Points

The major talking point in these elections remains the rise of anti-establishment and Eurosceptic parties both from the extreme right and the extreme left.

To the Right
The first two big shocks of the elections were the far-right Front National coming first in France and the Eurosceptic UKIP taking top spot in the UK, including winning seats for the first time in Scotland and Wales.

There will be two German newcomers in the European Parliament: the anti-euro Alternative for Germany (AfD) with seven seats and the far-right National Democratic Party, which won one seat. The anti-immigration People’s Party came first in Denmark with four seats and nearly 27% of the vote but it distanced itself from the Front National in France and Golden Dawn in Greece. Finland’s Eurosceptic Finns Party won two seats and nearly 13% of the vote, falling well short of forecasts. In Greece, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party claimed three seats, its first MEPs, with around 9.37% of the vote – a huge improvement on its 2009 performance.

In both Italy and Hungary, Eurosceptic parties actually did worse than predicted although they did win seats.

To the Left
In the crisis hit southern EU states, the swing was to the hard left. In Spain, the protest party Podemos (“We can”) took nearly 8% of the vote and five seats. Podemos was formed only four months ago, having grown out of the Spanish indignados who camped out in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square in 2011. The coalition group United Left also gained four seats. The overall winner in Greece was the left-wing opposition party Syriza, which campaigned against the government’s austerity policies.

Next Commission President?

The EPP choice for president of the European Commission, former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, has already claimed the post for himself, despite opposition from the UK’s ruling Conservative Party. Both the Party of European Socialists (PES) and ALDE suffered losses in this election, which has seen PES candidate Martin Schulz and ALDE candidate Guy Verhofstadt concede that they will not become Commission President through electoral mandate.

However, the EPP’s relatively weak victory could take political momentum away from Juncker as the de facto candidate. The disparate balance of power in the Parliament could make Member States more willing to challenge the Parliament by nominating their own preferred candidate. It remains to be seen how this process will unfold over the coming weeks.

The Irish Context

Despite a mammoth series of counts, the results in Ireland do provide some clear narratives that will be addressed in the coming weeks and months. Following the reallocation of European Parliament seats in light of Croatian accession, the Irish representation in the new European Parliament has dropped from 12 MEPs to 11 seats. This has seen the creation of three European Parliament constituencies: Dublin, Midlands-North-West and South.

Fine Gael has retained its four European Parliament seats and remains the largest Irish party in the European Parliament. Former senator Deirdre Clune and former Junior Minister Brian Hayes will join returning MEPs Seán Kelly and Mairéad McGuinness. Former MEP Jim Higgins lost his seat.

Sinn Féin is the biggest winner of the election, with all three of their candidates elected as first-time MEPs. Lynn Boylan was elected in Dublin, Matt Carthy in Midlands-North-West and Liadh Ní Riada was elected in the South.

Fianna Fáil has returned one MEP, Brian Crowley, in the South constituency. He will be joined in the ALDE group by Independent MEP Marian Harkin. Two other Independents, former Labour MEP Nessa Childers and former TD Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, were also elected to the European Parliament.

Next Steps

The Heads of State from all 28 EU Member States met yesterday as part of the European Council in Brussels to discuss the results of the European Parliament elections, with leaders asking European Council President Herman Van Rompuy to start consultations on a future agenda in light of Eurosceptic poll gains.

During the week of the 2 June 2014, the new European Parliament political groups will begin to be formed, with MEPs expressing their committee preferences.

Between Thursday 26 and Friday 27 June 2014, the European Council will meet to agree the official nomination of Heads of States’ candidate for the Commission Presidency to be agreed by the Parliament. Following the changes introduced by the Lisbon Treaty and taking ‘into account’ the results of last week’s European Parliament elections, Jean-Claude Juncker of the EPP remains the main Spitzenkandidat for the Commission Presidency. The European Parliament will hold its first plenary session on Tuesday 1 July 2014, with the election of the President and Vice-Presidents, as well as the election of the Chairs and Vice-Chairs of the Committees.

Wednesday 16 July 2014 is seen as one possible date for the European Parliament to vote on the Commission President designate. If consensus hasn’t been reached by July, it will then fall to the September plenary.

 

This Just the Facts article is also available as an email information service from European Movement Ireland to our members.  For more information on becoming a member of European Movement Ireland, contact our offices or visit our Membership webpages.

 

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