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The outcome of these elections could lead to a strengthening of the Kremlin’s role in Europe, a revision of anti-Russian sanctions, and weakening of the pro-Ukrainian lobby
We have to admit that Kremlin managed to achieve some success in its striving to define insiders and outsiders on the eve of the European parliamentary elections. The new European Parliament would have more Eurosceptics, and pan-European groups might lose about 70 seats. But, fortunately, the pro-Ukrainian majority will remain in Europe.
Less than three weeks before the appointed elections are left. The outcome of these elections could lead to a strengthening of the Kremlin’s role in Europe, a revision of anti-Russian sanctions, and weakening of the pro-Ukrainian lobby.
It is predicted that, by participating in this election campaign in a united front, Euroskeptics might increase their representation in the EP. Most of them are Kremlin’s political allies.
According to Estonian intelligence, the main targets of Moscow were the youth of Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, and France. The residents of these major EU member states would elect more than a third of the European Parliament. Unless, of course, the UK participate in the elections.
It is expected that the turnout in these elections will be at least 68%. And in Germany, for example, almost three-quarters of all voters (73%) intend to come to the polls. And, as evidenced by the study of the German Bertelsmann Foundation, every tenth voter in Europe is ready to support the right or populists.
Meanwhile, for Ukraine, this situation is unlikely to become critical. The leading pan-European parties are European People’s Party (EPP), European Socialists Party (PES, S&D group), and Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), according to all forecasts, are still able to preserve the majority.
How will the political palette of the European Parliament change after the May elections?
Currently, the EP consists of eight “traditional” political groups, among which the share of Euroskeptics is about 21%.
According to the latest forecast, made on the basis of sociological surveys in the EU countries at the end of April, the main and most numerous pan-European parties will lose 15-17% of seats in the EP in May.
So, despite some revival of interest in recent months to the EPP and PES factions, the S&D group, both political groups are likely to suffer significant electoral losses compared with the results of 2014. At the same time, according to the forecast of Europe Elects, the center-right might lose 41 places, and the left-centrists might get rid of some 30.
So, as we see, the largest and most powerful group of EPs is expected to be the EPP again, although its number may be reduced from 221 to 180 seats. The leader of this force is German politician Manfred Weber, who at the end of April was remembered by statements about his intention to stop the Russian project Nord Stream – 2. He is also the most likely candidate for the presidency of the European Commission.
PES, S & D group would likely remain the second largest political group, whose leader is Dutchman Frans Timmermans, the current First Vice President of the EP. According to the forecast, this party will receive 161 seats instead of 191 in the current composition of the EP.
ALDE could be the third largest political group. The leader of this party is the current European Commissioner for Competition, the Danish politician Margrethe Vestager.
According to Tobias Schminka, the head of the social service of Europe Elects, this party managed to win the support of voters mainly due to recent changes in the political situation in France and Romania.
The En Marche party (ed. – “Forward, Republic!”), which is expected to join the liberal ALDE, slowly rises in popularity ratings. Meanwhile, in Romania, voters turn to ALDE, because the rating of the ruling Social Democratic Party has been greatly shaken due to the corruption scandals.
Now it is predicted that the Liberal Democrats are able to increase their representation in the European Parliament by 37 seats, but on condition that the French En Marche supports this faction.
“European Conservatives and Reformists” (ECR group) now barely holds the fifth position. At the May elections, it might lose its position from the current 70 to 64 seats.
Its leader is the Czech politician Jan Zahradil, and the structure includes such serious political players in Europe as the Polish “Law and Justice,” the British “Conservative Party,” and the Czech “Civic Democratic Party.”
The party of the European Left, the so-called. The European United Left / Left Greens of the North (ed. – European United Left / Nordic Green Left – GUE / NGL) group will also slightly reduce its representation in the EP, from 52 to 49 deputy seats.
It is expected that its position will slightly improve the Greens – European Free Alliance (ed. – Greens / European Free Alliance – Greens / EFA). Although insignificant – for just one position.
All of the above parties are predominantly centrist, despite the differences on the basis of the left or right wing. But, unlike them, the extreme far-wing populists and Euroskeptics show the best dynamics in this election program.
According to the German Bertelsmann Foundation, supporters of Euro-skeptical parties are more mobilized than centrist parties. The Fund’s survey results also show an increased anti-European stance.
“Many citizens no longer choose the party but vote against those parties that reject it the most. On average, only about 6 out of 100 voters (6.3%) have a positive attitude to one party. At the same time, almost every second respondent (about 49%) has a negative party identity, and therefore completely rejects one or even several parties,” the report says.
Researchers claim that those voters who supported the main pro-European parties and now have become disillusioned with them, as a rule, use populist messages.
On the eve of the elections, the far-right from all over Europe united in the nationalist faction European Alliance of People and EAPN, the informal leader of which was the head of the Italian “League of the North,” Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
The group included representatives of the ECR group, Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy – EFDD and Europe of Nations and Freedoms (ed. – Europe of Nations and Freedom – ENF).
The creation of the new faction was supported by the French National Front Marine Le Pen, Austrian and Dutch Freedom Party, German Alternative for Germany, The Danish People’s Party, and former True Finns party.
The cooperation of the new Alliance with the Hungarian Fidesz of Viktor Orban is not excluded, especially after their membership in the EPP was suspended in March of this year, the Polish party“ Law and Justice” by Yaroslav Kaczynski, who quarreled with Brussels. According to April forecasts, EAPN might take fourth place and get about 85 seats.
These parties might have a more “pragmatic” approach to Russia – in other words, the desire to lift part of the sanctions and normalize relations with Moscow.
But for now, by simple arithmetic calculations, it is easy to establish only that centrist parties will continue to represent the majority in the European Parliament. And this will ensure the continuity of European politics. If the situation changes after the May elections, it is completely irrelevant. And the official foreign policy of Kyiv might not be taken into consideration at all.
According to international expert Roman Kostyuk, despite all the serious differences between the leading political players of the European Union in the social and economic spheres, they still occupy similar positions in the foreign policy field. This concerns, for example, solidarity in European foreign policy on security and defense.
Such solidarity is regularly demonstrated by the EPP and the PES, S & D group, and ALDE. In addition, an analysis of the voting of the last years in the European Parliament shows that the most diverse deputy groups, located both in the left, and in the centrist, and in the right parts of the EP take a rather tough and irreconcilable position on the policy of the Kremlin.
So, the European Green Party and the PES, S & D group see in Moscow’s actions a source of instability and a move towards an arms race.
European moderately left reproaches the Russian authorities for violating human rights and freedom of the press; almost all the ecology parties of the Old World and a significant number of social democratic parties also criticized the actions of the Russian Federation in the post-Soviet space.