BRUSSELS – The European People’s Party (EPP) won on Sunday the European Parliamentary elections, thus emerging as the largest political grouping in the international chamber with 178 seats, although it could lose 38 seats vis-a-vis what it had after the 2014 election, according to initial results made public by the EP.
The overall takeaway from the election, at least according to early results, is that the populist and nationalist wave that has been surging in Europe in recent months appears to have stalled.
Although they have won in Italy, France and Hungary, right-wing, nationalist leaders – by and large – did not do as well as had they and others had been expected.
Instead, markedly pro-EU Green and liberal parties gained ground, to the chagrin of euroskeptics, but even so European politics is likely to be even more fragmented in the wake of Sunday’s vote.
According to initial results, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats (S&D) will be the second largest grouping in the EP with 152 seats, 33 less than it garnered five years ago, while the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) will receive 39 more seats than it held in the past legislature, achieving 108 this time around in the European-wide vote.
With the participation at approximately 50.5 percent of eligible European voters, compared with 42 percent in 2014, the Greens will be the fourth largest grouping in the Eurochamber with 67 Eurodeputies, 15 more than they had in the earlier Parliament.
The European Conservatives and Reformists will hold 61 seats – 16 fewer than they held previously – with the British conservatives and Poland’s Law and Justice Party factoring within this grouping.
Meanwhile, the Europe of Freedom and Democracy grouping will increase its representative in the EP by 19 deputies to 55 seats, a victory of sorts for France’s Marine Le Pen, who heads that country’s ultraright faction, which is part of this group, along with nationalistic and xenophobic parties like Italy’s Northern League, Austria’s FPÖ, the Netherlands’ PVV and Belgium’s Vlaams Belang.
The Europe of Freedom and Democracy group headed by the British UKIP of Nigel Farage, one of the key figures in the so-called Brexit, whereby Britain is slated to leave the European Union, will hold 53 seats, an 11-seat increase.
The Left grouping will lose 13 seats, leaving it with just 39 lawmakers in the new Eurochamber, according to initial results.
The Unaffiliated group, which is not aligned with any of the other political groupings, will obtain 7 seats.
And the Other group, including new Eurodeputies who did not belong to any of the existing groups in the previous legislature, such as Spain’s Vox, will have 31 seats in the new Parliament.
Elections for the EP, the world’s second-largest democratic legislature after India’s, were held in the 28 EU countries from Thursday through Sunday and exit polls released in recent days indicated that the center-right and center-left groups that have dominated European politics for decades would lose ground to euroskeptic and Green parties.
Elections to the EP take place every five years by universal adult suffrage, and with more than 400 million people eligible to vote, it is considered one of the largest democratic elections in the world.
A total of 751 members are elected to the European Parliament, which has been directly elected since 1979. No other EU institution is directly elected, with the Council of the European Union and the European Council being only indirectly legitimated through national elections.
National governments have the final say on all important matters in the EU, but the legislature can influence rules on issues ranging from security to phone-roaming and can strike down the bloc’s trade deals or appointees for the bloc’s top jobs.
Exit polls in several countries that have already voted – Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia – confirmed an antiestablishment trend. In Ireland and the Netherlands, the established center-right and center-left were projected to win more seats than first expected.
But in the most populous countries – Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Poland – opinion polls indicated that moderate parties would lose votes to euroskeptics and Greens, thus forcing the two-party coalition of the center-right and the center-left that has held a comfortable majority in the EP for decades to co-opt a third or even a fourth group to pass laws.
The new balance of power will also need to be reflected in the appointment of several top EU officials, including the president of the European Central Bank. That selection process will begin Tuesday when EU leaders meet in Brussels for a special summit.