Just like many individual European countries, the European Parliament as a whole is politically polarized. In the beginning of the 2000s, various political scientists forecasted the decline of party politics and, related to that, the rise of centrists. The second part of this forecast now seems to be valid as centrist parties have gained further representation in the European Union.
Although the right wing is gaining popularity across the world, liberals were relatively successful in the 2019 European elections. How can we interpret these gains to create a better understanding of what attracts European voters in the 21st century?
The voter turnout in the 2019 EP elections was 51%, which is the highest number in 40 years. The results show that both Eurosceptics and pro-European liberals have significantly increased their representation in the parliament.
Following the political tendencies in Europe – especially in Eastern Europe, with Hungary and Poland – it would have been hard not to expect an increase in the numbers of anti-EU politicians in the European Parliament.
Nevertheless, it came as a surprise that ALDE, the parliamentary group composed of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party and the European Democratic Party, increased the number of its seats with 40 new members.
According to Europe Elects, ALDE member parties enjoy equally strong support among all age groups. It may, therefore, be speculated that young voters favor them due to their pro-European and socially liberal opinions. At the same time, older voters, who already acummulated considerable wealth in their life, support ALDE parties for their reluctant stance on wealth redistribution.
Furthermore, looking at the results in the V4 countries (Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary) helps gain a better understanding of the popularity of liberals.
Hungary Surprises All (Or, at Least, Most)
The EP elections had quite surprising results in Hungary, even though the victory of the governing party, Fidesz, had been long anticipated.
However, the gains of a social democratic party of Hungary’s ex-prime minister, Ferenc Gyurcsány, Democratic Coalition (S&D) and the gains of the Momentum party, were unexpected.
Democratic Coalition won four seats instead of the expected two, and joined the party group of the Socialists & Democrats in the EP.
In addition, two representatives of Momentum were elected instead of the expected one or none. It is worth reminding that Momentum is a very young liberal party. Its two representatives are currently the only Hungarians who joined ALDE.
Traditional parties, such as the Socialists (MSZP) and Jobbik, weakened their position significantly, gaining only one seat each.
Meanwhile, the Greens (LMP) have disappeared from the European Parliament altogether.
Fidesz delegated thirteen representatives, and was allowed to stay in the EPP, which may lead to the polarization of values within the EPP.
The Liberal Czech Republic?
The Czech Republic seems like the most liberal member of the V4 countries. Interestingly enough, it also seems like the greenest one.
ANO have won the elections, gaining six seats in the European Parliament, with all MEPs entering ALDE.
ANO is followed by ODS, a far-right party with four MEPs, which has joined the anti-immigration European Conservatives and Reformist (ECR) in the EP.
The third most popular party was PIRÁTI, gaining 3 seats in the Greens party group.
Poland for the Win!
Poland delegates noted the highest number of MEPs from the region.
Similarly to Hungary, its right-wing party governing party, PiS, has earned the largest number of votes and the majority of seats reserved for Poland in the EP. All MEPs of PIS have joined ECR in the Parliament.
However, in Poland, the opposition could create a great coalition of parties, making the elections a race between the “two main blocks”.
The second highest number of MEPs came from the coalition of the opposition, called European Coalition, some of whom have joined the European People’s Party party group in the EP.
Wiosna, a newly created party, was the only big opposition party that did not join in to the European Coalition and did a bit worse than it had been expected, yet still being able to delegate one representative to the EP, who has joined the Socialists and Democrats party group.
Wiosna is led by the first openly gay Polish politician, and its main goal is to create a government without strong ties to the Catholic Church.
There is an alarming rise of racist politics in Slovakia, where the openly racist L’SNS finished third in the elections. However, the L’SNS did not perform as well as it had been expected, being able to delegate two representatives instead of the forecasted three.
The representatives of L’SNS have joined the ECR in the Parliament.
In contrast, a recently established progressive coalition PS/SPOLU has “won” the elections, gaining four seats, finishing before the ruling social democrat SMER.
The success of the liberal coalition of PS/SPOLU seems like a great liberal victory as this is the first EP election of the coalition, and liberal ideas did not seem to be very popular in the country.
In conclusion, the preferences of voters in the V4 countries are just as polarized as all around Europe.
In comparison with the last European term, during this EP cycle, there will be less representatives from the V4 countries in the EPP, and more in the ECR, which mimics the political vibe of Poland and Hungary. (However, the Hungarian Fidesz is still in EPP.)
The majority of representatives from the V4 countries have joined ECR, which illustrates the significance of Poland in the political spectrum of the Visegrad Group. This means that 55% of V4 representatives (mostly from Poland) have joined the ECR group, 22% of them are in EPP (mostly from Hungary), 15% have not yet joined to any party group, 11% joined Socialists and Democrats, and 9% of them belong to ALDE.
Despite the alarming reality of global climate change, the Greens failed to get enough voter support in the four Visegrad countries, delegating only 4% of the representatives to the Greens group.
Finally, 3% of the MEPs have joined Salvini’s Alliance, and another 3% the European United Left/Nordic Green Left.
In the 2019 European elections, liberal parties performed quite well, especially in light of the popularity of the far-right in the region. This phenomenon may bring hope to those who were worried about the rise in popularity of far-right ideas, and about the decline of sympathy for the liberals.