Author: Tobias Gerhard Schminke, Founder of Europe Elects and Leader of the Europe Elects team.  

Scenario 1: The national parties remain in their European Parliament groups

In the past, national parties have announced multiple times that they are willing to form new groups in the European Parliament. And multiple times they have failed.

The requirement of 25 or more seats in the European Parliament from seven or more member states has made it difficult to form new groups in the European Parliament. French President Emmanuel Macron is the latest example who lost the fight against, what could be called, Don Quixote’s windmills in the EU Parliament: after fighting for months to form a social liberal ‘L’Europe En Marche’ in the European Parliament, the latest information now indicates that his national party LREM will join the liberal ALDE group, which was founded in 2004. His opponent on the national level Marine Le Pen managed to form a right-wing group, what we now know as the ENF, after years of failed attempts in 2015. The currently second-largest party in Italy, M5S or the "Five Star Movement" announced last autumn its intention to form a group by January 2019, but the aspirations of M5S have not yet materialized. It is not unrealistic that the major parties on the national level remain in the groups they have been affiliated with so far.

According to the basic scenario, the centre-right European Peoples Party (EPP) with transnational spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber is currently projected to reach 177 seats. This is 40 seats less than in 2014, but despite these harsh losses EPP would remain the largest group in the European Parliament. Being in the pole position, Weber has a good chance that the EU Parliament will support him as the new President of the European Commission. The Bavarian is from the same group in the European Parliament as the incumbent President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.

But EPP is not alone in its misery: the headlines in May will probably make for difficult reading for European Socialists. In the latest Europe Elects January 2019 projection, the Socialists and Democrats group (S&D)slides to a historic record low. Currently, the alliance of centre-left parties in the European Parliament is projected to receive 129 out of 705 Members in the European Parliament. The more S&D slumps to record lows in projections, the worse are the odds for PES-spitzenkandidat Frans Timmermans (PES-S&D) to become the new President of the European Commission. The PES is the transnational political party closely affiliated with the S&D group in the European Parliament. Currently, the S&D group has 190 out of 751 seats in the European Parliament.

The liberal group in the European Parliament ALDE is projected to advance from the fourth to the third position. The Europe Elects model projects  a share of 12.8% of the votes for the ALDE group around Guy Verhofstadt and French President Emmanuel Macron. The 21.6 million votes from EU citizens would turn into 98 seats in the EU Parliament if there was an election today. ALDE holds 68 out of 751 seats in the current parliament.

The right-wing ENF group around Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini and the national-conservative ECR group around ACRE-spitzenkandidat Jan Zahradil are currently fighting for the fourth position in the European Parliament. Both are projected to receive 62 seats. ECR is currently the third largest group with 73 out of 751 seats, while the ENF has only 37 Members in the EU Parliament.

The Europe Elects projection includes VOX as a member of the ECR group. If the Spanish right-wing party decides to overcome their differences with Matteo Salvini and join ENF instead of ECR, the ENF would be clearly the fourth largest force in the European Parliament.

The left-wing GUE/NGL group- centred around Gregor Gysi, Jean-Luc Melenchon, and Alexis Tsipras stands at 56 seats in the Europe Elects projection. At the moment, GUE/NGL currently holds 51 out of 751 seats in the European Parliament. 

The Greens and Regionalists (Greens/EFA group)are projected to receive 47 seats in the European Parliament. More than half of the votes for these seats come from only one country: Germany. The Greens currently hold a total of 51 out of 751 seats in the EU Parliament.

The national parties which are currently organised in the eurosceptic EFDD group would get 46 Members in the European Parliament from three countries. Based on these numbers the group would cease to exist or survive through the integration of individual MEPs from parties not affiliated with EFDD. This is how EFDD managed to avoid deregistration for a number of years in the past and it cannot be outruled that they will manage to do so in the future. There are, however, significant problems for EFDD on the horizon, which will be outlined in the next scenarios.

The NI group is a technical group which forces Stalinist, right-wing extremist and satire parties under one formal roof. Out of the 12 seats, two would go to the Greek Communist party KKE, one to the German satire party of Martin Sonneborn Die PARTEI, and the rest to right-wing extremist parties from across the continent.

16 seats will also go to mostly right-wing parties who are currently unaffiliated.

Scenario 2: EFDD breaks apart and affiliates with existing groups

The EFDD has had significant bloodletting since 2014. Numerous EFDD MEPs have left the group since 2014, the most prominent case was the departure of the British UKIP party to the ENF group this month. Either Brexit or the European election could put the nail on the group’s coffin: If the group fails to integrate individual Members of the European Parliament, the group will not represent MEPs from seven or more countries anymore.

The death of EFDD is not unlikely, also because there are only four relevant national parties left in EFDD and three of them – M5S from Italy, DLF from France, and AfD from Germany – are openly declaring their allegiance to other groups or are intending to form new groups. M5S has announced that they intend to leave EFDD, the AfD dreams about a united right in the European Parliament and DLF openly flirts with ECR membership after May 2019.

It remains unclear whether M5S will create a group of their own with flamboyant personalities from all across Europe or join an already existing group. Manuel Muller from Humboldt University Berlin projects that M5S will join ECR due to the unwillingness of the other groups to accept the Italian government party. The ECR consist of two transnational parties: the Christian fundamentalist ECPM and the national conservative ACRE. Both have been reaching out to new parties in order to gain influence across the continent and have fallen for the temptation to form alliances with more exotic politicians and parties. M5S’s marriage with EFDD in 2014 was similarly unexpected, which leads to the alluring conclusion that M5S may actually join the ECR despite their fundamental ideological differences. 

Scenario 3: A United Right

Another not too unlikely  scenario includes a new group in the European Parliament which could be called: the ‘United Right’, a dream project of Germany’s AfD. The right-wing vote in the European Parliament is currently split up over up to five groups: the national-conservative ECR, the eurosceptic EFDD, the right-wing ENF, some minor right-wing parties in the NI group as well as the right-wing of the EPP group.These five sections are united in their disapproval of the Juncker Commission and the growth of Islam in Europe. In most other policies, first and foremost their attitude towards Russian President Vladimir Putin, they tend to differ. Surely the third, potentially second, and maybe even the first position can only come into reach for the right-wing and eurosceptic parties depending on how successfully they manage to integrate ECR, EFDD, ENF and parts of EPP and NI into one major group. It would be up to politicians like Matteo Salvini, Viktor Orbán, and Jarosław Kaczyński to unite the European right and far-right. All three politicians have already been in touch with each other and Viktor Orbán has already ‘outed’ himself as Salvini-fan, but it is unclear whether this is enough to unite the right.

A united right-wing may help the Five Star Movement to find partners to build a new European Parliament group of its own, as proposed by the party’s leadership. Right-wing Eastern European parties would certainly be hesitant joining a group with Putin-allies like Marine Le Pen or Matteo Salvini.

It is rather unlikely that the Five Star Movement will join a ‘United right’ group. 

Scenario 4: Five Star Movement goes European

M5S has made clear that they intend to leave EFDD behind and create a new group by January 2019. As of now, however (30 January 2019), it looks like that the Italian government party has been unsuccessfully in bringing together a new group. The national parties M5S reached out to so far are the Polish right-wing party Kukiz’15 party, the Croatian populist ŽZ or the largely irrelevant neoliberal party Liike Nyt from Finland. Moreover, the M5S leader Luigi di Maio praised the yellow vests in France, who increasingly organize in various minor political parties. The only thing which unites these parties is that they advertise themselves as ‘anti-establishment’.

Given the ideological diversity of the parties mentioned, the speculation about other potential partners for the Five Star Movement becomes quickly level unicorn: One could include the right-wing  Slovak parties  who are currently only half-heartedly affiliated with ECR or ENF as potential partners for M5S; European Pirates who are currently openly breaking with the Greens/EFA group; the Austrian Green split-off JETZT who are unsure about joining the Greens/EFA group; Catalan and Flemish separatists who are unhappy with or expelled from their respective groups; the Portuguese Alianca; the Hungarian Jobbik who has attempted to rid themselves of their Nazi image by desperately looking for new European Parliament group affiliations (last failed attempt: EPP); or even the 50PLUS party in the Netherlands which is a pensioners’ interest party. It depends on the ability of the M5S leadership to attract seven or more parties for an M5S-led group in the European Parliament. Currently, it is absolutely unpredictable which national parties will end up in a ‘Five Star Movement goes Europe’ group.

To make matters more complex, some of the four scenarios showcased here may occur in combination with each other. One thing is for sure: we have an exciting election ahead of us!

Add new comment