Blog Post

Chart of the week: Political groups in the European Parliament since 1979

The results of the European Parliament election of May 22-25 have been described as “a shock, an earthquake”. The long-term trends, however, indicate a different perspective.

By: Date: November 24, 2014 Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

True, the shifts in Britain and France have been among the most dramatic. But the vote in other countries suggests a more nuanced view

Much of the pan-European comment, as always, comes from the London-based international press focusing on the outcomes in the UK and, to a lesser extent, in the familiar old neighbor across the Channel. True, the shifts in Britain and France have been among the most dramatic. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) came in first, as did the National Front in France, while the governing French Socialist Party did worse than ever. But the vote in other countries suggests a more nuanced view.

In Italy, the governing centre-left and pro-European Union (EU) Democratic Party won decisively. In Spain, the dominance of the two mainstream parties was eroded, but the gainers were mostly pro-EU even when they were anti-system. Conversely in other countries, key parties were pro-system from a domestic perspective, some of them even governing in their countries, but nevertheless anti-EU – for example, Hungary’s Fidesz and indeed the UK’s own Conservatives. About everywhere, and as usual in European elections, national political developments overwhelmingly influenced voters’ choices.

A longer-term perspective is reflected in in the chart above, showing all European Parliament elections (one every five years) since the first one by universal suffrage in 1979. Political groups in the Parliament have occasionally changed name and composition in terms of national member parties, but there is enough continuity to observe trends.

The two main groups have always been the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the centre-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D). The centrist liberals, now known as Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE), have also been present since inception, as has a group of communist and other left-of-centre parties, now called European United Left / Nordic Green Left (EUL/NGL). The Greens appeared in the 1984 election in alliance with regionalists, and have had their own group continuously since 1989. The UK Tories joined the EPP in the 1994, 1999 and 2004 but have been the core of a Conservative group both before (European Democrats) and after (European Conservatives and Reformists).

Various other right-of-centre nationalist groups have come and gone, most recently the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) party, which includes UKIP and Italy’s Five-Star Movement. There was also a separate regionalist group following the 1989 election, and a split centrist group following the one in 1994. Finally, each parliament has a number of independents, currently at record level since France’s National Front failed to join or constitute a group.

The chart shows the shares of total Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) for different political groupings on the basis of this typology. Given the EU system’s significant deviation from the principle of electoral equality, this breakdown may be somewhat different from the EU-wide popular vote. Also, the absolute number of MEPs has almost doubled because of successive EU enlargements, from 410 in 1979 to 751 today.

One obvious fact springs from the graph: Europe has been there before

One obvious fact springs from the graph: Europe has been there before. Until the 1990s, the overall balance of political forces in the European Parliament was remarkably similar to the current one, even though its national components have changed somewhat. Compared with the heyday of the “European mainstream” in the 1999, 2004 and 2009 elections, the earlier period saw stronger parties both on the left and on the right of the centrist block of EPP, ALDE, S&D and Greens (who may be radical on certain policies but are here included in the “European mainstream” in terms of their stance on EU integration). Strikingly, the legislatures that followed the 1984 and 1989 elections were the ones when Jacques Delors was President of the Commission, an era often seen in Brussels as the halcyon days of European integration.

A key question for the future, of course, is whether the recent trend will continue, and whether the “anti” parties may increase their gains further in the next election, scheduled in 2019. While an extrapolation of the chart may suggest such a prospect, it is far from inevitable. An optimistic reading of the appointment of EPP lead candidate Jean-Claude Juncker, the former prime minister of Luxembourg, as Commission President (which remains to be confirmed by a vote of the European Parliament itself) suggests that the next election may differ markedly from previous ones, including this year’s.

Given the Juncker precedent, EU member states’ citizens may be motivated to elect a specific party with a positive outcome in mind (their preferred pick for the top job) as opposed to a protest vote. If confirmed, this could trigger another trend reversal.

 


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint. Anyone is free to republish and/or quote this post without prior consent. Please provide a full reference, clearly stating Bruegel and the relevant author as the source, and include a prominent hyperlink to the original post.


Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /home/bruegelo/public_html/wp-content/themes/bruegel/content.php on line 449
View comments
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

The effects of Brexit on UK growth and inflation

The full consequences of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union were never going to be immediately perceptible. As we approach the second anniversary of the UK’s Brexit referendum, we can compare the subsequent economic data for the UK and the euro area and see how it diverges from the trends established before the vote.

By: Francesco Papadia Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: May 23, 2018
Read article Download PDF

External Publication

European Parliament

EU funds for migration, asylum and integration policies

This study provides an overview, analysis and evaluation of how EU funds for migration, asylum and integration policies have been used. Using publicly available information, insights from interviews with various stakeholders and a survey of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the authors evaluate the allocation, implementation and oversight of EU funds.

By: Francesco Chiacchio, Zsolt Darvas, Konstantinos Efstathiou, Inês Goncalves Raposo and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, European Parliament, Testimonies Date: May 23, 2018
Read article

Blog Post

The Iran nuclear deal crisis: Lessons from the 1982 transatlantic dispute over the Siberian gas pipeline

A US president taking a unilateral decision that affects European interests; European policymakers outraged at US interference in their affairs; European businesses fearing losing access to some international markets – sound familiar? This is the story of a crisis that took place in 1982 regarding the Siberian gas pipeline project; its outcome should inspire optimism in the Europeans’ capacity to counteract Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Iranian nuclear deal.

By: Emmanuel Mourlon-Druol and Angela Romano Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: May 23, 2018
Read about event

Upcoming Event

May
30
12:00

Financial services after Brexit - what path for the EU27 and the UK?

How will the European financial services industry develop after Brexit?

Speakers: Dashiell Caldwell and Richard Knox Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read article Download PDF

External Publication

Central banking in turbulent times

Central banks came out of the Great Recession with increased power and responsibilities. Indeed, central banks are often now seen as 'the only game in town', and a place to put innumerable problems vastly exceeding their traditional remit. These new powers do not fit well, however, with the independence of central banks, remote from the democratic control of government.

By: Francesco Papadia and Tuomas Valimaki Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation Date: May 22, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Fiscal rules and the role of the Commission

The proposals on fiscal frameworks and rules in the recent CEPR Policy Insight on euro-area reform showcase the multiple dimensions of the fundamental dilemmas we are confronted with in the governance of the euro area. This column, part of the VoxEU debate on Euro Area Reform, looks at the challenges to the central role of the Commission that have arisen as the rules-based fiscal framework has been severely compromised.

By: Thomas Wieser Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: May 22, 2018
Read about event More on this topic

Upcoming Event

May
31
12:30

Unelected Power: the quest for legitimacy in central banking and the regulatory state

We are pleased to host the presentation of Paul Tucker's latest book.

Speakers: Maria Demertzis, Joanne Kellermann, Jean Pisani-Ferry and Paul Tucker Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read about event More on this topic

Upcoming Event

Jun
4
12:30

News from the South. Proposal to strengthen the European Monetary Union: Combining fiscal discipline with risk sharing

On 4 June Bruegel, as in previous years, will host the presentation of the Euro Yearbook, a collection of experts’ insights on the construction of the European Monetary Union through 2017.

Speakers: Maria Demertzis, Fernando Fernandez, Javier Méndez Llera, Pablo Zalba Bidegain and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read article More by this author

Blog Post

The EU should not sing to Trump’s tune on trade

The US threat of trade sanctions has put the EU in a difficult position. Nevertheless, the EU must respond decisively – not just to protect its own interests but those of the multilateral trading system, and to demonstrate to the US and other partners that trade is not a zero-sum game.

By: Maria Demertzis Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Global Economics & Governance Date: May 17, 2018
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

EU budget post 2020: the next MFF

This is a closed-door event where we will discuss the EU budget post-2020.

Speakers: Barbara Balke, Giacomo Benedetto, Grégory Claeys, Zsolt Darvas, Marcin Kwasowski, Stefan Lehner, Antoine Quero-Mussot, Esperanza Samblas Quintana, Salvatore Serravalle and Laurent Zylberberg Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: May 16, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

Director's Cut: Post-crisis prognosis for macroeconomics

The global financial crisis prompted the field of macroeconomics to rethink its methods. In this Director's Cut of 'The Sound of Economics', Bruegel deputy director Maria Demertzis addresses the changes made and the problems still unresolved, in conversation with Nicola Viegi, South African Reserve Bank professor of monetary economics at the University of Pretoria, and Frank Smets, director general of economics at the European Central Bank.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: May 15, 2018
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

What does Europe care about? Watch where it spends

The European Union says it wants to focus on new priorities. First it will have to cut spending in sectors that have long enjoyed support.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: May 14, 2018
Load more posts