With few days separating us from 2019 European elections, #EuraffexSpotlight sheds the light of the Populists chances and future.
HELP ! THE POPULISTS ARE COMING AGAIN !
The populists – or the new non-traditional parties – are a diverse bunch. Making any attempted analysis of this group, is quite a complex mission.
Many come from the Right, some from the Left, and others again are saying they want to defy the traditional Left-Right discussion. No matter where they come from, the big question is what the expected influx of new MEPs from the non-traditional parties will have on the balance of power in the European Parliament, Europe and Brussels.
Some key factors to remember to analyse these parties:
Seeing is believing
Italy’s Salvini and others are busy saying that they will form a very large – maybe even the largest – group, however this is not a guarantee.
One should be wary of being seduced by what we can call false inflations. The new European Alliance of Peoples and Nations – EAPN – the successor to the current ENF-Group, will undoubtedly become larger than it is now. This is not least down to the electoral success of the Italian Lega party (do not understand). Increased numbers will also come from parties, such as Germany’s AfD. This expected increase will indeed make the group bigger and stronger, but there is quite a bit to go from growing larger, to truly shift the balance of power in the European Parliament.
A notable aspect of the “new” Right-wing group is its current lack of ability to attract too many new parties. At the launch meeting in Milano on 8 April, it was announced that two parties were leaving the ECR-Group to join them. While this is no doubt slightly annoying for the ECR, we are only talking about two minor parties. What is more, the third member of the ECR’s Nordic grouping, the Sweden Democrats, did not join, making the claims of uniting all of the Right, a mere dream. Cynics might even say that it is just the old ENF-Grouping with a new name, and a handful of new parties.
Populist have less influence
Besides the fact that the new Right-Wing group might not be as grand as aiming for, and how much, or little, influence its members will have.
In general terms, the average non-traditional MEP has less influence than counterparts from the more classical parties. Due to the fact that the established parts of the European Parliament have in fact kept populist and Far-Right parties out of influence. Even when groups like ENF and EFDD have in theory been eligible for higher positions in the European Parliament, they have often not been granted to them. In the same way, Parliament’s dominant groups have been reluctant to push through politics based on the votes from the non-traditionalists. Will this continue?
Populist are not united
Some non-traditional parties want to leave or dismantle the EU, while others do not. In the same way, all of the parties talk about migration, but they have no common solution. Some want other countries to take in migrants, others don’t. Similar conflicts are in areas of social policy, LGBT issues, austerity, among many.
When comparing voting between groups like EFDD and ENF, or examining the groups internally, the lack of unity is clear. With nothing indicating that a new (or re-packaged) Right Wing group would suddenly start agreeing, this means that even if the group grows in numbers, and even if other groups decide to work with the group, the influence they can expect to gain is limited.
Populist parties often split up
A quick look through European Parliament history reveals another interesting aspect: The non-traditional parties do not exactly have the best track record of remaining united once they have been elected.
For example: the Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty-Group, which collapsed after only 10 months in 2007. French RN, UKIP, AfD, and the Danish People’s Party, all finished this legislature with fewer MEPs than they began with.
... and so,
We need to look at an increased number of non-traditional MEPs in a nuanced way. The “new” Right-wing group might end up with the backing of less parties and MEPs than what headlines leave us to believe, but still with an increase. Members of the group may in reality have less influence and fewer positions than their colleagues. More importantly, we cannot be sure that creating a new group would translate into actual unity on political issues. Furthermore, possibly we can already begin to wonder when splits will occur in a new group, and where MEPs might go if they leave the parties they were elected for.
What’s crucial to know and remember: the non-traditional parties are taking votes and seats away from the established parties. In practical terms, this means that existing coalitions in the European Parliament will have to be broadened, and that the parties who are opposed to the new-comers will in the coming years work even closer together than they have done in the past. It also means that the real threat of the non-traditional parties lie more in how they influence and change the traditional parties, rather than the amount of seats they get in the EP.