Ignore headline hysteria about a populist takeover of the EU. Rather, today’s European Parliament elections should prove to be yet another chapter in the story of how the public’s faith in institutions is ebbing away, leading to more volatile policy-making ahead.
Watch out for how many seats are won by:
- Orban’s Fidesz (current 11, expected 15)
- Will he work with other populist parties?
- Even if he doesn’t announce that he will sit with their grouping, he can use this sword of Damocles to hang over the head of the EPP and push policy in his direction
- Farage’s Brexit Party (current 0 (although UKIP 24), exp 25)
- Not only in terms of how it will affect UK politics but also how it impacts future Brexit negotiations
- Macron’s La Republique en Marche (current 0, exp 21)
- How much have the Gilets Jaunes protests taken their toll on Macron’s power?
- Le Pen’s National Rally is expected to win 22 seats, so there will be some comfort for Macron if he can beat them into second place
- The Greens (current 51, exp 55)
- A good showing and we can conclude that broad discontent with institutions is driving European politics rather than populism per se
We will find out:
- Can populist parties work together?
- How strong is anti-establishment sentiment across Europe?
- Is there any hope left for the historic major parties?
We already know:
- These elections will deliver a more fragmented European Parliament, frustrating policy-making
- Policies will be dragged towards the extremes as the historic centrist parties struggle to survive
- The hegemony of France and Germany over the direction of Europe is waning, leaving an uncertain future ahead for the European Project
- Italy is on course for a fiscal showdown with EU institutions
In one chart:
The legacy blocs of the centre-right EPP and centre-left S&D can only be propped up if the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe is saved by Macron (courtesy of Open Europe):