Here are the key points:
- Share of anti-EU and anti-establishment vote is slightly higher than expected with such parties collectively on course to win 229 out of 751 seats in the new European Parliament (30.5%), up from 164 out of 766 seats in the current parliament (21.4%).
- European Parliament politics are set to become more unpredictable though the anti-EU and anti-establishment block remains incoherent and the two main groups will continue to dominate.
- The share of MEPs dedicated to free market policies drops, from 32% to 28.1%.
- Compared to 2009, overall turnout stayed flat despite more powers for MEPs in the Lisbon Treaty and the EU becoming a high-profile issue in the wake of the Eurozone crisis.
- Several anti-incumbent parties in the EP for the first time, ranging from Feminist Initiative in Sweden to Spain’s new leftist movement Podemos, founded as late as March 2014.
The rise of anti-EU and protest parties on the left and right will make European politics more unpredictable but, paradoxically, it could also strengthen the resolve of the three mainstream groups to continue to vote for more Europe in the European Parliament, in order to freeze out the anti-EU contingent (click on the pictures to enlarge).
The temptation in Brussels and national capitals will be to view this as the peak of anti-EU sentiment as the eurozone crisis calms down and the economy improves. This would be a huge gamble. The make-up and reasons for the rise of these parties are complex, but it’s clear that the best way to cut off their oxygen is to show that the EU can reform itself and respond to voters. These elections are a clear warning: offer voters a polarised choice between more Europe and no Europe and sooner or later they will choose the latter.
David Cameron now faces a seriously tricky week. He has two main challenges. First, he will try to muster enough allies to block Jean-Claude Juncker, the front-runner for European Commission President, although it’s not looking overly promising. Second, he faces the dilemma of aligning himself with more nationalist parties to secure his party’s standing in the EP, which comes with the risk of alienating his natural allies on the centre-right who will be crucial in his bid to achieve EU reform.
EU leaders will meet tomorrow evening to discuss what to do next and how to negotiate with the new parliament. It might not be pretty.