EU elections: Wake-up call for centrists amid euroskepticism, climate inaction

Bernd Riegert, Deutsche Welle, 27.05.2019

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Europeans have mobilized to vote in numbers not seen for decades. Major parties have seen their power shrink, and with populists and Greens making gains alliances will be crucial.

The biggest surprise this European Union election was the high voter turnout. Nearly 51% of the 400 million eligible voters cast their ballots, 8 percentage points more than the previous election in 2014. Protests against climate policy, school-striking teenagers and the urge to defend the EU against euroskeptic, right-wing populist parties appear to have mobilized voters. [...]

Right-wing populists make gains

Janis Emmanouilidis, a political analyst at the Brussels-based European Policy Centre, points out that pro-EU parties still hold about 80% of the seats. "As a group, the right-wing populists are altogether not as strong as some had previously warned. We already knew that they wouldn't have a majority, but they are perhaps weaker than we had thought."

In Italy, the right-wing League of Interior Minister Matteo Salvini won the most votes, and in France the National Rally party of Marine Le Pen came out on top. "Macron had really tried to use his own political weight, to prevent Le Pen and her party coming out in front. And he hasn't managed to do it," Emmanouilidis said.

In many of the EU's 28 member states, traditionally large parties in the center of the political spectrum struggled, while liberal, environmentalist and right-wing parties grew in strength. Emmanouilidis saw that as a sign of increasing fragmentation. "We see that the large parties have lost ground and that there will need to be a wide coalition to find a majority," he said. In the future European Parliament, the traditional large centrist parties will have to work together with the liberals, and perhaps also the Greens.

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