This is our last (and longish) post gathering material on the European elections, before the ballots actually open in some Member States (previous posts here and there in the blog). EU Heads of State or Government will convene on 27 May to “discuss the outcome of the elections and to look at what we can learn from its results”, as president van Rompuy puts it in the invitation letter, not to “decide about names”. Here is a final selection of snippets from our virtual ‘campaign notebook’, with many hints at the party-political umfeld. We list them by month:
Much commentary on the difficulties for eurosceptic parties to form cohesive groups in the EP. Many analyses have focused on the ideological and policy differences between parties like FN, PVV or UKIP. On the LSE Europp blog, Simon Usherwood added a note on the ‘personal’ nature of these parties:
While part of the antipathy between the FN and UKIP is policy-driven, it is also about personalities. A large number of the skeptical parties have strong, charismatic leaders – Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Timo Soini, Beppo Grillo, etc. – who have built up parties around themselves and who have either implicit or explicit modes of operation that reject working with others.
The March issue of French Politics carried an article on FN supporters. It found that they come from diverse social and economic backgrounds. What unites them is their high degree of motivation, their political values and their personal beliefs (for example, in authority and other traditional values).
After the general elections in Hungary, a lot of attention went to Jobbik, which confirmed itself as the largest “national radical party in the EU”, in the words of Cas Mudde (often quoted in the media lately, see an interview and his previous study). Concerning Jobbik’s possible cooperation with FN, PVV and other parties in the next EP, it is perhaps worth going back to this interview in February 2014 by a Jobbik MEP, showing a strong ideological difference on an ‘enlightment / tradition’ dimension.
On the institutional side, structure and size of the Commission come back into discussion. An EP report proposes, among many other things, to designate vice-presidents for thematic clusters. The European Policy Centre recommends creating broad thematic clusters under a Commission vice-president.
Policy stances under scrutiny: a CEPS paper relativizes expectations on the politicization of the European elections and its impact on turnout, and notes that European party manifestos offer little policy content actionable by candidates. This is partly echoed by Dods’ overview of European political parties manifestos. The paper notes that “we see little development of energy, transport and health policy”. The Federalist Movement publishes its ‘federalist scorecard’ on party manifestos.
The interest for policy stances is reflected in the growing number of Voting Advice Applications (VAAs): the European University Institute launches EUandI in 24 languages. EUandI invites users to react to policy statements, in order to identify which political parties represent their views. Further notes on VAAs and the issues they raise, in this EP briefing.
Still a lot of discussion on the politicisation of European elections, as in this UK perspective by Seamus Nevin, editor of Policy Network. Looking in detail at possible post-election scenarios, G.D. Tortola of the Istituto di Studi sul Federalismo expects that a grand coalition will be needed for a Commission president candidate to achieve the absolute majority in Parliament: if so, he argues, a lot will depend on whether a coalition model prevails where party top candidates take executive office (as in German grand coalitions) or are willing to take a step back (as in the previous Italian coalition).
explaining the unknowns of the system would have superficially watered down the democratic rhetoric of the broadcast, yet ensuring transparency and educating potential voters in institutional complexity is part of a real and messy business of democracy.
On policy differences, a dissenting opinion is voiced by C. Castro-Conde after a comparison of the manifestos: in fact, she argues, there are clear differences between the parties. In the meanwhile, the German branch of the European Movement looked at national party programmes: it noted that, although campaign posters do not necessarily show it, there are indeed deep policy differences between German parties, ranging from the call for a federal Europe to repatriation of powers, to the abolition (sic) of the European Council, CESE and the Committee of the Regions.
Still in May, a paper by the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik looking at the performance of German MEPs. This is one of several analyses published in recent months as a part of the project “15 European Parliament votes that shaped EU and national politics 2009-2014”.
Seán Hanley at the UCL SSEES looks at differences and similarities in the party landscapes of ‘old’ Member States and the Central and Eastern European countries of the 2004 and 2007 wave of enlargement. As he puts it,
Overall, viewed through the prism of East-West difference, the forecasts suggest not a political earthquake but rather the basic continuity of long-standing patterns of difference in the party-political landscapes of the ‘old’ West and Southern European EU as opposed to the newer post-communist member states – but with some surprisingly similarities in trends across the two regions of Europe.
A reminder of the familiar pattern of European unity and diversity, and a good close for our last pre-election post. The Library will go back in the next days to our usual alerts on general EU information resources and other research updates.