The populist parliamentary puzzle

Ben Zaczek on the great unknown that is the make-up of the next European Parliament

The European Elections in May are being billed like none we’ve ever seen before. With populist and far-right anti-EU parties on the march across many Member States, one of the most hotly debated questions is not whether they will upset the balance in the next European Parliament, but how much – are we talking a tremor, or an earthquake?

Parties touting anti-European rhetoric have become something of a norm across Europe. Their rise has been put down to disenchantment with the established political order, recession, austerity and unemployment.

But it is interesting to note that not all of these are far-right nationalists or far-left nihilists – some anti-EU parties such as Beppe Grillo’s Movimento Cinque Stelle are non-aligned. But they all share a deep skepticism of the European integration project and are tipped to command a significant minority of the popular vote in many Member States.

Just how much, only the elections themselves will tell, but pundits are widely citing the 20-30% range. How this translates into seats in the next parliament is also unsure, with a take of anything from 6% to 20% of seats being projected. And while a fifth of seats represents a significant minority, it is unlikely that the far-left and far-right will form a stable alliance, although in politics, stranger things have happened.

Ben Zaczek is a Consultant at FTI Consulting Brussels. For a detailed discussion of the make-up of the European Parliament, see FTI Consulting’s Snapshot

Image by – Botond Horvath /
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