A New Parliament for the European Union

This year’s European Parliament (EP) election marks a shift in the traditional power distribution: for the first time in the history of the institution the coalition of the liberal-conservative European People’s Party (EPP) and social-democratic Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) is not expected to secure the majority of seats. The EP is confronting a shift of its base towards the right wing: anti-immigration and eurosceptic Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) is gaining significant ground according to current polls. The left-wing Greens/ European Free Alliance (Greens/ EFA) and the centrist Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group (ALDE) are also projected to acquire some additional seats compared to 2014 when the previous election took place.

How will these changes affect the majority coalition in the EP? To answer this question, we apply our methodology (Gamson-Shapley stability analysis) and the following constraints on coalition formation. We expect that no consensus may be formed between the right wing of the EP (ENF, Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD), and European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR)) and the left wing (Greens/ EFA) and European United Left/ Nordic Green Left (GUE-NGL). EPP is not likely to cooperate with GUE-NGL, due to its strong left views. Similarly, S&D is not likely to be part of an alliance with right-leaning ECR, EFDD, and ENF. We base our forecast on the assumption that Brexit will not happen before the upcoming EP election.

According to our forecast, there are three majority coalitions plausible with current polls results and within the stipulated coalition formation constraints. Predictably, those include the traditional alliance of EPP and S&D supported by the centrist ALDE, Greens/ EFA or other moderate parties (incl. Macron). Each of those three scenarios is equally stable (in terms of opportunity costs of power sharing), hence, the outcome will depend on details in the negotiation process between the parties.

Overall, the outlined coalition structure has been widely predicted. We, however, expect that further monitoring of the situation is required. Even though the main forces in the EP are likely to remain in power, significant changes may take place with regard to smaller players. A breakdown of EFDD, as well as ECR, may follow as a consequence of Brexit. Moreover, the creation of two more political groups in the EP is under discussion: the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement’s Group and far-right European Alliance of Peoples and Nations (EAPN). These processes may result in the redistribution of power within the EP and a potential impact on the majority coalition. Which coalitions do we expect to emerge in this case?

In the event of Brexit and reconfiguration of the EP forces, we still find the three coalitions formed by EPP, S&D and one of the center or left parties (ALDE, Greens/ EFA or other moderates). However, the most stable scenario in this case would exclude S&D and comprise EPP, ALDE, Greens/ EFA, and other moderate parties, breaking the long-standing alliance of EPP and S&D.

As a final remark it is worth mentioning that, as in many cases the political groups in the EP do not have a common agenda or budget, it is at the national level that parties market themselves and take risks, as well as receive support. Hence, we expect the EP election to reflect the processes that take place within the various EU member countries. The most significant impact of the EP election may very well lie in the influence that it will bring on national political landscapes. Further monitoring of developments in the European Parliament, as well as in the political life of member countries, will therefore remain important in the months following the upcoming election.

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