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EU elections - Part II: A profile of recent four elections (2004-2019)

  Neha Tresa George

By Neha Tresa George

The following profile looks at the 2004 to 2019 EU elections which is held every five years. 

2019: Identity Democracy (ID) breaks through with 73 seats competing for the first time 
The 2019 European Parliament election was conducted between 23 and 26 May 2019 electing 705 MEPs. One of the key aspects was the UK’s participation in the election despite Brexit. The EU’s legislation in 2018 reallocated 27 of the UK’s states to other members while the remaining 46 were reserved for potential future members. Thus, the total number of European Parliament seats was reduced to 705 from 751 post-Brexit. The European People’s Party (EPP) lost 34 seats (won 182 seats in 2019 and 216 in 2014) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) lost 32 seats (won 153 seats in 2019 and 185 in 2014) and were not able to form a coalition to control the EU. The ‘Renew Europe’ group consisted of the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats for Europe group (ALDE) and French President Macron’s La République En Marche! - Renaissance List became the third largest Group with 108 (14.4 per cent) MEPs followed by the Greens-European Free Alliance, Identity and Democracy (ID) group consisting of far-right parties won 73 seats competing for the first time. Whereas the centre-right European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) lost 15 seats. The voter turnout had increased from 42.6 per cent in 2014 to 51 per cent in 2019, which was the largest in the last twenty years. While the countries of Belgium and Luxembourg ranked the highest in terms of voter turnout due to the enforced compulsory voting, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic had the lowest. The election of Commission President was elected in extraordinary circumstances bypassing the Spitzenkandidate system, which gave more rights to the citizens. The office was thus given to Ursula von der Leyen through an intergovernmental agreement with the support of EPP, Renew, and S&D. Her main agendas included a Green Deal, a Europe fit for the digital age, an economy that works for the people, promoting a European way of life and a new push for European democracy.
 
2014: EPP and S&D despite majority lost seats for the first time in the decade
In the 2014 EU elections, 751 MEPs were elected to the Parliament. The elections were considered a milestone in the history of the EU as the Lisbon Treaty of 2009 scaled down the number of MEPs to 751 since Croatia had joined in 2013 increasing it to 766. It also gave the power to elect the head of the Commission to the Parliament which gave the citizens a stronger voice in steering Europe’s direction. Although there was increase in the voters form the UK, the overall turnout remained low at 42.6 per cent. The elections took place in the backdrop of the worst economic crisis in the eurozone which might have had a considerable influence on the voters’ behaviour. The EPP backed the largest majority with 216 seats followed by S&D with 185 seats. This election saw a rise in Eurosceptic parties with the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) gaining the third-largest majority of 70 MEPs in the Parliament. ALDE came next in line with 67 MEPs followed by the Nordic Green Left (NGL) with 52 seats. The Greens or European Free Alliance (EFA) came in the sixth position with 50 seats. Jean-Claude Juncker, the EPP lead candidate, was elected as the President of the European Commission on 15 July 2014. His political program was based on a social market economy and a commitment to social dialogue. He focused on key areas such as jobs, investment, a connected digital single market, a balanced free trade agreement with the US along new policies in migration and democracy.
 
2009: EPP wins with majority; Social democrats and Eurosceptics support declines
In the 2009 EU elections, there were 766 seats out of which the right-wing parties won in 20 countries with 274 seats while the left only won in seven countries with 196 seats. This was because people found the far-rights and centre-rights more credible and efficient in dealing with the economic instabilities in the union. The EPP won with a clear majority of 51.1 per cent with 274 seats in the Parliament. One of the key aspects of this election was the decline of social democrats and Eurosceptics with the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) party only gaining fifth position with 57 seats. The left-wing had its lowest share of votes since the first election in the EU with 29.2 per cent although the S&D became the second largest party with 196 seats followed by ALDE with 83 seats. The Greens could only achieve high scores in Luxembourg (16.8 per cent), France (16.3 per cent), and Belgium (13.5 per cent). The voter turnout fell with only 42.9 per cent across the EU. Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, former Prime Minister of Portugal was re-elected with an absolute majority in the Parliament for a second term as the President after his first mandate from 2004 to 2009.  He focused on European unity and a decisive deal for the EU that projected the values, freedom, and economy to the global world.  His main purpose was to reduce the public budget deficit to a three per cent target.
 
2004: EEP-ED & PES wins with majority
In the 2004 EU elections, there were 732 seats since ten new member states joined in the year. The new joiners were Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia accounting for the largest enlargement in terms of people and number of countries. The political groups of EPP-ED (Christian Democrats and European Democrats) gained 268 seats followed by PES (Party of European Socialists) with 200 seats. The ALDE group placed third with 88 seats while the Verts/ALE (Greens, European Free Alliance) got 42. The GUE/NGL (Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left) was just behind with 41 seats along with IND/DEM (Independence or Democracy Group) with 37. UEN and NI (Union for Europe of the Nations Group and Non-attached Members) had the least with 27 and 29 seats respectively. The voter turnout improved from 1999 and was around 45.5 per cent. This election brought together the old and new member countries thus paving the way for greater integration and unity. Jose Manuel Durao Barroso was elected President of the European Commission for five years. Some of his focus areas were a new thinking and decisive deal for Europe, eurozone bond, and defence sector integration.


About the Author

Neha Tresa George is currently an Research Intern at NIAS, Bangalore. She is a graduate in Political Science from Madras Christian College. Her interest includes gender and ethnic issues in Europe.

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