• Multiple Authors

The Institute Presents: The EU Elections

Overview: Philippe Lefevre

We have just experienced what many have called, the most European EU elections ever. With turnout rocketing upwards to over 50% [1] and many pan-European issues being raised vigorously from across the Union. However, for many European citizens, it was local issues that affected their vote, from their countries place in Europe, to the parties themselves. In this special presentation we at the Institute want to give you the chance to hear from every member state what the outcomes of the elections were for each country, from recently embattled Austria to rather peculiarly, the United Kingdom.

First we must begin with a brief overview of the results themselves. In essence, it was a battering for the traditional two main parties of the EU Parliament, the European People's Party (a centre-right grouping) and the Socialist and Democrat Party (a centre-Left grouping). In almost all EU elections previously, the two parties together have managed to secure at least half of the seats in the parliament (There are 751 MEPs total) but this was narrowly missed this year, with the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats in Europe (a roughly liberal centrist grouping) gaining many seats along with the Greens. This strong show of force for pro-EU groups was offset by strong returns for Eurosceptic groups in Parliament, spread across multiple parties. However, if you dig deeper into the countries themselves, you find many different interesting results that allow you to understand the nature of these elections and their impact on the future of European politics.

EU Election Results by Party

The EU election results as a whole, still provisional but unlikely to change. [2]

[1] “Turnout | 2019 European Election Results | European Parliament.” 2019 European Election Results. Accessed June 5, 2019. https://www.election-results.eu/turnout/.

[2] “Home | 2019 European Election Results | European Parliament.” 2019 European Election Results. Accessed June 5, 2019. https://election-results.eu/.

Austria: Natalie Raidl

Like in most other countries in Europe, the turnout in Austria’s elections to the European Parliament was considerably higher than in the previous election – almost 60% in 2019 compared to 45% in 2014. While all of Europe was bracing for a sweeping victory of right-wing parties, Austria’s FPÖ (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs) was caught up in one of the biggest political scandals of Austria’s history. Party leader Heinz Christian Strache was filmed during a meeting with a supposed Russian oligarch’s niece and caught on camera vowing to politically staff the biggest Austrian newspaper and sell out the Austrian building industry. This was followed by Mr. Strache’s withdrawal from his post as vice chancellor and the along with him, all FPÖ ministers stepped down. The chancellor called for new elections, and the transition government was given a vote of no confidence, forcing the president to put together an expert government to run the country until elections in September.

This national crisis overshadowed most of the European elections and may also have impacted the high turnout, as people’s political awareness was high around the time. The outcome of the elections were used as a measure for who would end up benefiting from this national crisis and who would lose political popularity. The strongest party was the Austrian People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP), who scored 34,55%, a phenomenal 12% increase compared to 2014. This suggests that party leader Sebastian Kurz was able to convince his electorate that he was the “good guy”, who took al necessary steps to rid Austria of corrupted politicians. As expected, the FPÖ lost – but only around two percent from 19,72% in 2014 to 17,20% in 2019.

This shows that Austria’s right-wing party has a very strong core electorate that cannot even be alienated through a video that shows the party’s leader in treasonous behavior. The Austrian Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreich, SPÖ) scored 23,9%, practically the same result as in 2014, which nevertheless was a disappointment. The party was hoping to benefit from the crisis by being viewed as the strong opposition who forced out the untrustworthy transition government. However, it seems like the Austrian population, who were largely against this vote of no confidence, did not appreciate this move. The Austrian Green party, who had not received enough votes in the previous parliamentary elections to enter parliament, celebrated a big victory, scoring 14,08%. The centrist liberal party NEOS received 8,44% in their first run for European elections, which was a slight increase to their score in the national elections. The Austrian communist party and the “JETZT!” list did not make the threshold and will not be represented.

Belgium: Stijn Mertens

Belgium went to the voting booth on the 26th of May to vote for regional, national and European representatives. After Climate Marches, ‘Gilets Jaunes’, the fall of the government because of the Global Compact for Migration also known as the Marrakesh Pact and multiple shortcomings in the Belgian justice systems, we could only guess which theme would come to dominate the campaign. Most expected growth for the Greens (Groen & Ecolo), the extreme right (Vlaams Belang) and the extreme left (PTB - PvdA) at the expense of the establishment parties. The magnitude of this growth remained to be seen.

The results came in and they shocked us. In Flanders, ‘Vlaams Belang’ went from 5.9% (the electoral threshold lays at 5%) to 18.5% of the votes, making it the second largest party after the conservative nationalist party ‘N-VA’. ‘Groen’ underachieved and only gained 1.4% and the communist ‘PvdA’ reached the electoral threshold for the first time in Flanders. Meanwhile in Wallonia things went in an entirely different direction. Here large gains were made by ‘Ecolo’ (+6%) and ‘PTB’ (+7.5%) making them the third and fourth party respectively after the socialist ‘PS’ and the liberal ‘MR’. Note that there are no significant right-wing, anti-migration parties in Wallonia, quite unique in Europe nowadays.

The winners and losers on regional, national and European level are roughly the same. In both regions coalitions can be formed rather easily. A left-wing or progressive coalition in Wallonia and a conservative one in Flanders. The federal level will not be as straightforward. It requires at least one party from the Wallonian and the Flemish side, so all major language groups are represented. Add to this that most parties signed an agreement not to make a coalition with ‘Vlaams Belang’ (=Le Cordon Sanitaire). This agreement effectively eliminates the third largest party from a possible coalition. As things stand, at least four parties are needed to form a majority on a national level. In this scenario ‘N-VA’, ‘PS’, ‘Vlaams Belang’ and ‘MR’/’Ecolo’ would have to make a coalition, which could never happen. Let’s hope we do not break the record for the longest government formation again.

Bulgaria: Ana Popova

From Bulgaria, seventeen new members from five different political formations are going to be sent to the European Parliament (EP).[1] The governing party in the country, Citizens for European Development (bulg. GERB) reached the highest results with 31,07 % and won 6 MEPs. Even though the number of their candidates doesn’t increase, they have scored a slight increase in the votes compared to the 2014 EP elections.The biggest opposition party at national level, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), followed with 24,26 % and 5 MEPs – one more MEP than the last election. This is an increase of approximately 5% of the votes compared to the 2014 elections.

The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (bulg. DPS) gets to send 3 members of the EP with 16,55 % of the votes. This is a negative result for the party that is supposed to represent the Bulgarian minorities and means that they will have one member less than in the previous election. The first two candidates who got the most votes withdrew their candidacy after the elections. The first one and current chairman of the DPS, Mustafa Sali Karadayi, explained in his questionable Bulgarian that their goal was to unite their voters. For the second candidate, Delyan Peevski, this is the second withdrawal after he cancelled his candidacy in the 2014 EP elections as well. His argument was that he was needed more in the Bulgarian Parliament, where the times he has been physically present since his inauguration in 2017 can be counted on one hand. The Bulgarian nationalists’ movement “Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation” (bulg. VMRO) has won 7,36 % of the electorate and will be represented in the EP by 2 MEPs.

A newly formed coalition of the Bulgarian Green party, the party “Yes, Bulgaria!” and the Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (DSB) also made it above the 5,88%-hurdle with 6,06% and will have one MEP – the leader of DSB Radan Kanev. The results are positive for the Greens in comparison to the 2014 elections.

In contrast to the overall positive results regarding the voter turnout, the election participation was lower in Bulgaria compared to earlier elections. Only 32,64% of the population granted a valid vote, which is 3,2% less than the 2014 elections and 6,35% less than the 2009 elections.[2]

The EP elections are often regarded by theorists and academics as “second-line-elections” which are not believed by the population to influence national politics. Consequently, many voters view them as a pitch mostly to a protest vote. [3] This observation is accurate in the Bulgarian elections results only inasmuch as an insignificant percent of GERB’s electorate has chosen to support the Green and Democrats Formation instead. Otherwise, there is no significant change in comparison to the national elections.

[1] Bulgarian Central Electoral Commission, European Parliament Elections 2019, https://results.cik.bg/ep2019/mandati/index.html (accessed 02.06.2019).

[2] European Parliament, Elections Results 2014, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/elections2014-results/en/country-results-bg-2014.html (accessed 02.06.2019).

[3] Todorov, Antonii, “European Elections 2019: The earthquake ist postponed, but for how long?”, https://antoniytodorov.wordpress.com/EP elections

Croatia: Filip Fila

Although end results did not deviate a great deal from predictions, much commotion regarding them ensued in Croatia in the days following the elections. The most popular Croatian party and the main party within the ruling coalition, the center-right Croatian Democratic Union, earned the greatest share of votes (22,72%) and consequently won 4 seats in the European Parliament. They had, however, certainly hoped to win more seats than their longstanding rivals, the center-left Social Democratic Party, which got 18,71% of the vote, and was also awarded with 4 seats. All other parties which passed the elective threshold won a single seat. It should, however, be noted that the third place belongs to a coalition of right-wing parties titled Croatian Sovereignists, led by the former/current EP MP Ruža Tomašić. They managed to win 8,52% of the vote. Coming in close with 7,89% of the vote was the independent candidate and newcomer to politics Mislav Kolakušić, the biggest surprise of the elections. The last two seats will be reserved for the the anti-establishment Human Shield party and the Amsterdam Coalition, which consists of several center-left, liberal, and regionalist parties. There was not a great difference between the two in terms of votes won; Human Shield was the top choice of 5,66% of the voters, while the Amsterdam Coalition acquired support from 5,19% of the voters. Voting turnout was fairly low, a bit under 30%.

Analyzing the results, what is noticeable is that an exact correspondence with popularity polls and with the results of recent national elections did not occur. Therefore the CDU, which expected to win 5 seats and a greater share of the vote, has been perceived as one of the losers of these European elections. SDP, on the other hand, should rightly see themselves as winners, even if they do not seem to be anywhere near close rivaling CDU on a national level. Owing to the strong lineup of politicians they fielded, they will not only now have the same amount of seats in the EP as CDU, but have increased their number by 2. Concerning other parties and their expectations, the Human Shield stands out as it has been itching to become Croatia’s second most popular party, but was ultimately miles away from SDP this time around. Among those which failed to win a seat, many noted the bad result of the Bridge of Independent Lists, a relatively new conservative party which peaked in its first elections ever in 2015, but has since then been on a decline. On the whole, the waters of future national elections seem muddy as what was once more demonstrated was fragmentation as a reflection of a sort of a desire for new options to counter the CDU and SDP. Despite the resurgence of SDP, what should also be highlighted is a general shift towards the right. As far as European politics are concerned, Croatian representatives will be predominantly pro-European, with the only explicitly Eurosceptic option being the Human Shield and its MP.

Cyprus: Lawrence

The results of the European Parliament electoral process in Cyprus proved that still, European affairs are far from the Cypriot reality. The panel debates leading up to the elections were mostly focused on inter-party bickering, discussions on local topics (national health care, crime, etc), less about the Turkish invasion problem (with the exception of the latest Turkish invasion of Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone and deep-sea drilling – look it up), and even less coverage of European affairs. Which is why it was not entirely surprising that Cypriots ignored the #thistimeimvoting campaign of the European Parliament, and chose instead to vote for the beaches rather than spend their Sunday involving themselves in a process that has intentionally kept them distant. If nothing else, it showed that when people are called to vote for the future of Europe, they should be involved in it from the beginning.

The most surprising result of the Cypriot vote was the “douze points” given to a Turkish-speaking Cypriot, who, for the first time since Turkish-speaking Cypriots walked out of their public service posts in 1963, will hold a public office seat representing the interests of the Republic of Cyprus. Turkish-speaking Cypriots were the largest minority on the island, when it became a Republic in 1960. Following an internal conflict caused by years of British oppression, a Greek-led military coup and a Turkish-led invasion in 1974, the Turkish-speaking Cypriots have ever since been living in the north of the island, forming a de facto state only recognised by Turkey. Now, for the first time, an individual who holds a passport of this de facto state, as well as a passport of the Republic of Cyprus, is elected as 1 of the 6 Cypriot MEPs, even though he does not reside in the areas controlled by the Republic of Cyprus. Whilst this reinforces the power of the Republic of Cyprus and diminishes any status the puppet state of the north has had, many fear about potential security and national issues that may arise.

The other highlight, although much less surprising, was the lack of any women candidates. Showing how the party politics on the island are still male-dominated, the society has a long way to go until it realises that women bring unique qualities and skills to the negotiating/political table.

The newly elected group of 6 MEPs will need to produce a lot of work to prove to their European counterparts that the island is indeed European, but they will need to put an even greater effort in achieving at least a fraction of their pre-electoral promises to the Cypriot people.

Czechia: Anna Korienieva

Interest in the European Parliament elections has historically been low in the Czech Republic. This year's turnout was 28.72%, which is significantly below the EU average of 50.8%. Such a situation reflects prevailing Euroscepticism, which generally benefits pro-European parties, whose supporters are more likely to take part at the election to support their favorites.

With regard to the election results, the main power of the current Czech government, ANO (YES 2011), won 21.18% of the vote resulting in 6 MEP seats. Party's slogan “We will protect the Czech Republic, steadily and uncompromisingly" suggests its main priority – to defend the Czech Republic against the external enemy, embodied in Brussels and EU regulations. This is also connected to the adoption of the Euro, which Prime Minister Babiš (ANO) committed to postpone during his election campaign, a move seen to have been made to attract more voters

However, the question is to what extent ANO will be able to fulfill its promises in light of recent events associated with the prime minister's case, which came to the attention of the EU and the last Commission's verdict was not particularly favourable. Moreover, the EU's current focus is drawn to the rule of law, especially in relation to violations of EU legislation by Poland, Romania and Hungary. Combined together, those factors will most probably translate into greater efforts by net contributors to the EU budget to better monitor the flows of subsidies. The above mentioned factors would likely hamper achieving the Czech government's priorities: to continue receiving as much money as possible to support its agriculture as well as its poorer regions.

ODS (Civic Democratic Party) came second in the elections and thereby proved its position of the strongest opposition party. This fact, along with the ČSSD's (Czech Social Democratic Party) debacle, clearly indicates growing dissatisfaction of the prime minister’s policies among voters. However, despite intense political climate and the growing unrest as a result of the government's disregard of democratic values, the party’s goal of winning the next parliamentary elections is becoming increasingly unlikely. In the past, Andrej Babiš managed to cope with political turbulence and his party currently dominates the Czech political scene despite week-lasting anti-government protests.

Regardless of the fact that the S&D socialist faction came second on a pan-European level, on the domestic level Czech Social Democratic Party did not gain enough support to make it to European Parliament. This was largely due to the shocks of the internal political scene and the inability to face them quickly, which signals serious future problems to come.

Significant in the elections was the strengthening of TOP09 + STAN and Czech Pirates. Their ability to further cooperate will be decisive with regards to the fate of the current government.

Despite the low turnout, it can be said that the results of the EU parliamentary elections more or less reflect current power distribution. However, given recent events on the Czech political scene it is hard to speculate with great assurance how things will develop going forward.

Denmark: Arvid Rhod Joensson

The build-up and outcome of the Danish election for the European Parliament can be boiled down to four key points:

1: The reformists and eurosceptic parties lost public support. Dansk Folkeparti (ECR) went down from four to one seat and the anti-EU party Folkebevægelsen mod EU (GUE/NGL) lost its seat to Enhedslisten (GUE/NGL). The biggest electoral winners are the centre parties; Venstre (ALDE) and Socialdemokratiet (S&D), winning four and three seats respectively. Det Konservative Folkeparti (EPP) and Radikale Venstre (ALDE) occupy one seat each.[1] The loss in support for anti-EU parties is affected by the scare Brexit caused, as Danish and British EU sentiments somewhat match.[2] Denmark is reluctant to fully engage in the European project politically and financially. As an example of this, Denmark still has its own currency and has opted out of EU regulation on home and justice matters.[3]

2: The fear of climate change completely overshadowed the fear of refugees and immigration. The Green party gained 13% and two seats.[4] All left-leaning and centre-right parties made climate politics a top priority.[5] These parties had paid only lip service to the topic until a few months ago, but public sentiment forced the parties to discuss the issue and come up with possible solutions. Whether the parties will remain committed to this issue remains to be seen.

3: Taxation of multinational corporations became the top priority for many Danish parties.[6] Income tax and company taxes are high in Denmark and Danes want companies like Coca Cola and Google to abide by the same rules. The issue has occasionally been discussed, domestically and in the EU, for the last ten years or so.[7] The EU took further steps to solve the problem in 2016 and the Danish representatives may help speed up this legislative process.[8]

4: The election turnout went from 56% of the eligible electorate in 2014 to 66% in 2019.[9] The Danish population therefore seems to have grown more interested in European politics, which is the result of Brexit and climate politics.[10] There are no signs, however, that the public has grown more favourably disposed towards becoming more integrated in the EU.[11] Danes want cooperation, but with a large degree of independence.[12]

With thirteen seats (fourteen after Brexit), the Danish representatives are too few to play a major role on the European scene, but there is one way in which Denmark has influence. The current Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager (ALDE), has made a big name of herself in her fight against multinational corporations such as Google.[13] She is currently one of the five major candidates for the highest positions within the EU, and there are no signs that she will retire anytime soon from the zenith of European politics.[14] In the end, the Danish people are likely soon to lose interest in the grander European project and in solving the problems of climate change collectively. The question of refugees/migrants and other domestic issues will soon be the focal point of the general public once more. Only time will tell if the Danes stay committed and invested in EU cooperation.

[1] European Parliament, “2019 European Parliament Election: Denmark”, https://election-results.eu/denmark/ (Accessed 30/05/2019)

[2] Emma Qvirin Holst, ”EU Overblik: Historisk Stor Opbakning til EU blandt Danskerne”, Altinget, https://www.altinget.dk/artikel/eu-overblik-historisk-stor-opbakning-til-eu-blandt-danskerne (Accessed 31/05/2019)

[3] Jesper Kongstad, ”Trods Brexit Kaos: Historisk Stor Opbakning til EU fra Danskerne”, Finans.dk, https://finans.dk/politik/ECE11327982/trods-brexitkaos-historisk-stor-opbakning-til-eu-fra-danskerne/?ctxref=ext (Accessed 30/05/2019)

[4] European Parliament, “2019 European Parliament Election: Denmark”, https://election-results.eu/denmark/ (Accessed 30/05/2019)

[5] Simon Vincensen, “Klima, Klima, Klima – og Migration samt Mindre EU: Her er Kandidaternes Vigtigste Sager i Aften”, DR, https://www.dr.dk/nyheder/politik/ep-valg/klima-klima-klima-og-migration-samt-mindre-eu-her-er-kandidaternes-vigtigste (Accessed 31/05/2019)

[6] Ritzau, “Røde Partier vil have Fælles Bund under Selskabsskat i EU”, Policy Watch, https://policywatch.dk/nyheder/eu/article11392594.ece (Accessed 30/05/2019)

[7] John Hansen, ”Overblik: Sådan vil EU få Skat fra Multinationale Selskaber”, Politiken.dk, https://politiken.dk/oekonomi/fokus_oekonomi/Luxembourg_laekage/art5609135/Overblik-S%C3%A5dan-vil-EU-f%C3%A5-skat-fra-multinationale-selskaber (Accessed 31/05/2019)

[8] Peter Birch Sørensen, “To Harmonise or Not to Harmonise? A Comment on the European Commission’s Study on Company Taxation”, KU.dk, pp. 1-5. http://web.econ.ku.dk/pbs/Dokumentfiler/Comments%20(English)/Companytaxstudy.pdf, (Accessed 31/05/2019)

[9] European Parliament, “2019 European Parliament Election: Denmark”, https://election-results.eu/denmark/ (Accessed 30/05/2019)

[10] Simon Baastrup, “Klimakamp, Brexit, Trump og Russiske Trolde: Danskere Bakker op om EU som aldrig før”, Politiken.dk, https://politiken.dk/indland/art7158022/Danskerne-bakker-op-om-EU-som-aldrig-f%C3%B8r (Accessed 31/05/2019)

[11] Erik Holstein, ”Ny Måling: Vælgerne vil blive i EU, men de vil ikke af med Forbeholdende”, Altinget, https://www.altinget.dk/artikel/178869-danskerne-rykker-mod-midten-i-eu-politikken (Accessed 31/05/2019)

[12] Bjarke Møller, ”Hvad Føler Danskerne for EU?”, Tænketanken Europa, http://thinkeuropa.dk/vaerdier/hvad-foeler-danskerne-eu (Accessed 31/05/2019)

[13] Ritzau, “Vestager Åbner Sag om Britisk Skat på Multinationale Selskaber”, Fyens.dk, https://www.fyens.dk/udland/Vestager-aabner-sag-om-britisk-skat-paa-multinationale-selskaber/artikel/3197811 (Accessed 30/05/2019)

[14] Mathias Sonne, ”Vestager & de Andre: Fem Mulige Kandidater til EU-Tronen”, Information, https://www.information.dk/udland/2019/05/vestager-andre-fem-mulige-kandidater-eu-tronen (Accessed 30/05/2019)

Estonia: Rainer Urmas Maine

The European Parliament elections in Estonia came at a highly tense moment in Estonian politics. Parliamentary elections were held just two and a half months ago, on 3rd March and even though the election results then were not surprising, the aftermath was. After two and a half years in power, leftist Estonian Centrist Party (Eesti Keskerakond) lost the elections to the former ruling party, liberal Reform Party (Reformierakond).[1] Thus, it seemed that the coalition would probably be composed of those two parties, instead the Prime Minister Jüri Ratas decided to form a coalition with the conservative Pro Patria (Isamaa) and the far-right Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE).[2][3] This in turn caused a major uproar in Estonia. Reasons for this being that many people did not see how EKRE would be able to soften its rhetoric on classic far-right issues and keep Estonia going in a pro-EU direction. This was highlighted by many scandals which for the most part high-jacked pre-EP elections debates.

Focusing on the European Parliament elections, it is thus necessary to mention that even though there were many debates held on different TV-channels and media platforms, then most of the discussion lead back to whether EKRE is fit to represent Estonia on an international level and whether this government as such should even be in office. Most of the debate in Estonia centred on topics of Estonian politics instead of discussing actual difficult topics on the EU level. Discussions on EU topics were downplayed to a few catchphrases that the party candidates would throw up during their speeches and debates.

The messy situation that the highly controversial new coalition government has generated in Estonia was clearly reflected in the election results for the European Parliament.[4] Coalition government clearly lost votes in the European Parliament elections due to the situation and the opposition clearly won the elections with Reform Party getting 2 seats of the available 6 seats in the elections and the other opposition party, the Social Democrats gaining a seat thanks to the very strong performance of a former Presidential candidate Marina Kaljurand.

The other two seats went to the biggest coalition parties, being the Centrist Party and EKRE.

Curiously enough, Pro Patria originally thought that they had also gotten a seat in the European Parliament, but due to an improper visualisation of the results, this was not the case and after the victory speech on live-TV, they got information from news reporters that they instead would get a seventh seat in the European Parliament if Brexit would go through.[5] This all highlights a very messy election period in Estonia with the coalition clearly losing support in the two and a half months since the national elections. This being a curious case of strong opposition candidates getting record votes and coalition candidates losing a lot of support and a minister having to stand a vote of no confidence already on 3rd June.

[1] Vabariigi Valimiskomisjon. Riigikogu valimised 2019. https://rk2019.valimised.ee/et/voting-result/voting-result-main.html

[2] ERR. Kaja Kallas: Koalitsioon tuleb kas Keskerakonna või SDE ja Isamaaga. https://www.err.ee/916350/kaja-kallas-koalitsioon-tuleb-kas-keskerakonna-voi-sde-ja-isamaaga

[3] ERR. Keskerakonna, Isamaa ja EKRE koalitsioonileppe terviktekst. https://www.err.ee/927401/keskerakonna-isamaa-ja-ekre-koalitsioonileppe-terviktekst

[4] Vabariigi Valimiskomisjon. EP2019 valimised.https://ep2019.valimised.ee/et/voting-result/index.html

[5] Delfi. Europarlamendi valimised võitis Reformierakond. https://www.delfi.ee/news/eurovalimised2019/uudised/saade-blogi-ja-fotod-europarlamendi-valimised-voitis-reformierakond-voimsaima-tulemuse-tegi-marina-kaljurand-kes-kogus-ule-65-000-haale?id=86322903

Finland: Jarkko Nissinen

Six weeks after Finland’s parliamentary elections (eduskuntavaalit) Finnish voters had to elect 13 MEPs (14 after Brexit) to represent Finland in the European Parliament. Nevertheless, the voting percent increased to 42.7 % from 39.1 %. [1] The Finnish nationalists – or True Finns – gained only two seats which is a slight surprise after a sensational result in the Finnish parliamentary elections.[2] The European power duo EPP (Kokoomus) and SD (SDP) held their positions in Finland although the Greens (Vihreät) conquered new electorates, for example, by being the biggest party in the capitol.[3] The Finnish left-wing party Vasemmistoliitto and RKP, the party representing the Swedish speaking minority, were able to hold the fort and won a seat each.

Three topics dominated the Finnish political sphere during EU elections 2019: climate change, immigration and the low voting percent. Ever since the IPCC special report was released the conversation of climate change has been heated in Finland. The Finnish nationalists have framed the report together with any suggestions for a more sustainable way of living as “climate hysteria”.[4][5] The communication strategy paid off in the parliamentary elections, but good luck seems to have ended in the EU elections as True Finns failed to activate their voters. In a similar manner the discussion of immigration has been intense. True Finns are hard-liners on immigration albeit the Finnish center-right parties have updated their views on immigration policies since the last EU elections in 2014.

The low voting percent in EU elections is exceptional in the Finnish scale. Roughly 70 % of Finns voted in the last presidential and parliamentary elections.[1] The Finnish officials were facing a hard task of lifting the voting percent in EU elections while having practically no time to steer the public attention from election to another. Additional element that increased confusion among voters were “double candidates”, in other words Finnish MPs running for MEPs with no intention of taking a seat in Brussels.[6]

The Finnish EU elections 2019 can be concluded in a following way. Pro-EU forces won the race against the Finnish nationalists. The Finnish debate of climate change is now being actualized in votes – and in scale. The Finnish voting percent in the EU elections remains low although finally there was an increase towards – and hopefully far beyond – 50 %.

[1] Oikeusministeriö (2019). [online]. Available at: https://tulospalvelu.vaalit.fi/EPV-2019/fi/aanestys1.html [Cited 2.6.2019].

[2] Mykkänen, P. (2019). Helsingin Sanomat [online] Available at: https://www.hs.fi/politiikka/art-2000006121611.html [Cited 2.6.2019].

[3] Helsingin Sanomat. (2019b). [online] Available at: https://www.vaalikone.fi/euro2019/ [Cited 2.6.2019].de

[4] Barry, E. & Lemola, J. (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/12/world/europe/finland-populism-immigration-climate-change.html. New York Times. [Cited 2.6.2019].

[5] Helsingin Sanomat. (2019a). [online] Available at: https://www.hs.fi/paivanlehti/28052019/art-2000006122137.html. [Cited 2.6.2019].

[6] Fresnes, T. (2019). Yle Uutiset. [online] Available at: https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-10749255 [Cited 2.6.2019].

France: Vincent Muratet

Following months of anti-Macron demonstrations with groups such as the Gilets Jaunes taking to the streets, the results of the EU elections were far from surprising: La République en Marche (LREM), Macron’s own party created for the presidential election of 2017 [1], came in second with 22.41% of the vote behind that of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (RN), who took first place with 23.31% [2].

RN played on the current wave of anti-Macron sentiment, directly presenting themselves as ‘the only list which can make Emmanuel Macron lose and protect the French people’ [3], successfully equating any votes cast for them as being cast in protest against the current President. Unsurprisingly such a tactic was successful, with RN now holding 22 seats on the European Parliament to LREM’s 21 as a result of the elections [2].

In Le Pen’s own words: “Sunday will be a three-way battle. A battle for Europe: say NO to Macron’s Europe. A battle for our nation: say NO to Macron’s politics. A battle for civilisation: say NO to Macron’s vision!”

Despite their defeat, however, Macron’s party can consider itself as having avoided a potential catastrophe [5], with headlines in France claiming that despite the RN having won out, LREM’s base appears stable [4]. Indeed, despite RN’s best efforts to claim the election as a plebiscite and to dissolve the National Assembly (see Jordan Bardella’s tweet below), the election should have little bearing on national politics other than to confirm two truths.

RN’s Bardella: “The French people have sent Emmanuel Macron a very clear message of sanction tonight. We ask that he draw all the conclusions from it, and at least dissolve the National Assembly. He can no longer govern against the French people!”

Firstly that Macron’s presidency is currently unpopular and many in France are dissatisfied - if any confirmation was needed following the Gilets Jaunes, here it is. Secondly, that French politics have undergone or are undergoing a recomposition. In the words of the French Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe: “The ancient [political] divisions are no more, new ones have appeared. It is on these that we must advance from now on: Europe, ecology, growth, employment, social justice.”

Screenshot taken 29/05/2019 at 18:55 UK Time

Hence in national terms, the European elections simply confirmed dissatisfaction with Macron’s presidency, and the shifting of French politics into a slogging match between Macron and Le Pen’s respective parties. On the European stage, however, the rise of the ecologist party Les Verts (LV) with 13.47% and 12 seats [2], combined with an important increase in voters at 51.3% compared to 42.43% in 2014 [6], is incredibly significant.

With the advent of RN, the extreme right gained seats with which to undermine the European Union from the inside. Their opponents LV and LREM (the two being pro-EU parties) could, should they work together when needed, oppose the RN on the European stage. Regarding LV in particular, coalitions in the Parliament itself - perhaps in exchange for aiding LREM against RN - could yield interesting outcomes, especially regarding environmental issues and concerns. Nevertheless, the fact remains that an anti-EU party won out in France, although this fact lessens in importance when one considers that such a result came about due to opposition to the current President.

[1] Alissa J. Rubin (7 May 2017). Macron Decisively Defeats Le Pen in French Presidential Race. - The New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/07/world/europe/emmanuel-macron-france-election-marine-le-pen.html

[2] Le Monde (26 May 2019) Elections européennes 2019 : les résultats en sièges, pays par pays, et la future composition du Parlement - Le Monde https://www.lemonde.fr/les-decodeurs/article/2019/05/26/elections-europeennes-les-resultats-dans-l-ue-pays-par-pays_5467557_4355770.html

[3] Jordan Bardella, and Marine Le Pen (2019) Donnons le Pouvoir au Peuple: Rassemblement National

[4] Solenn de Royer (26 May 2019) Elections européennes 2019 : le RN confirme sa domination, le socle LRM résiste - Le Monde https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2019/05/26/europeennes-le-rn-vire-en-tete-talonne-par-la-liste-lrm-modem_5467603_3210.html

[5] Alexandre Lemarié, Olivier Faye (27 May 2019) Avec les européennes, « la recomposition politique se poursuit, elle s’accélère même » - Le Monde https://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2019/05/27/avec-les-europeennes-la-recomposition-politique-se-poursuit-elle-s-accelere-meme_5467978_823448.html

[6] Matthieu Goar (26 May 2019) Elections européennes 2019 : une participation estimée à 51,3 % en France- Le Monde https://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2019/05/26/en-france-la-participation-est-estimee-a-51-3-mobilisation-inedite-pour-les-europeennes_5467606_823448.html

Germany: Robin F.C. Schmahl

Though the interest in the 2019 European elections and the resulting turnouts (~61%) have never been higher in Germany since 1989 [1] the Christian democrats [CDU/CSU] as well as the social democrats [SPD] experienced both historical lows. (CDU/CSU: 28,9%, 29 Seats; SPD: 15,8%, 16 seats) [2]. The SPD was suffering from an ongoing political fatigue resulting from a perceived neoliberal stance and assimilation to its CDU/CSU coalition partner [3]. As the Chairman of the Youth Wing of the SPD, Kevin Kühnert, was provoking with more radical leftist ideas, the huge rift within the party became apparent, which alienated potential as well as traditional voters [4].

Similarly, the CDU, though conducting a somewhat effective campaign with EPP candidate Manfred Weber, lost their base on the right, due to Angela Merkel’s liberal stance on immigration, whilst not investing enough into climate policies to convince younger voters [5]. Additionally, the CDU/CSU and SPD were suffering from a recent social media controversy, as both parties weren’t able to produce a convincing reaction to several youtubers calling for a boycott of both parties, which in turn displayed the estrangement of the popular parties from younger voters and modern media [6]. It is unclear what lies in the future for both parties, though they have to find convincing answers to the following questions: Will there be an unchanged continuation of the great coalition, or will the SPD try to break loose in order to regain its position on the left? Can the CDU/CSU profit from the possible election of Manfred Weber as the new President for the EU’s commission? How will both parties reconnect to their traditional base, while appealing to younger voters?

The German Greens were the clear winners of the election with a historical high of 20,5% (21 seats). profiting mostly from alienated young, liberal SPD and CDU voters, but also from former non-voters [7]. The Greens successfully managed to present themselves as the only party capable of effective climate policies and are now often regarded as the liberal party to counter the far right AfD (11%, 11 seats), which didn’t manage to gain as much as was commonly projected, mostly due to the current scandal around former Austrian VP Heinz-Christian Strache [8].

All parties are now focusing on the upcoming elections in Brandenburg, Sachsen and Thüringen, which might bring heavier losses for SPD and CDU/CSU, but even higher results for AfD and the German Greens. After the European elections of 2019 Germany finds itself at a crossroads, as the country has to decide on the fate of the popular parties and whether they or the Greens can assume the dominant liberal voice on issues of climate change, immigration and the rise of the far-right.

[1] Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung. Interaktive Grafiken: Die Wahlbeteiligung bei Europawahlen. (Accessed 31.05.2019) https://www.bpb.de/dialog/europawahlblog-2014/185215/interaktive-grafiken-die-wahlbeteiligung-bei-europawahlen

[2] Der Bundeswahlleiter. Europawahl 2019. (accessed 31.05