Archive for May, 2009

Europe 2009 – Greece

Greece will elect 22 MEPs next weekend by a system of party-list proportional representation using a single nationwide constituency with a 3% threshold. Greece elected 24 MEPs in 2004. These were the 2004 results:

  • New Democracy (European People’s Party) – 43.02%, 11 seats
  • Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Party of European Socialists) – 34.03%, 8 seats
  • Communist Party of Greece (European United Left) – 9.48%, 3 seats
  • Coalition of the Left of Movements and Ecology (EUL) – 4.16%, 1 seat
  • Popular Orthodox Rally (Independence/Democracy) – 4.12%, 1 seat

The Panhellenic Socialist Movement held a majority in the national legislature from the 1993 election until an election in March 2004, just before the last European election. The 2004 national election gave a majority to the centre-right New Democracy party, who maintained that at the 2008 election.

Recent polls show the Socialists leading over ND. The Communists appear to have lost support, while the Coalition of the Radical Left have been polling 5-7%, which should give them a second MEP. The far-right Popular Orthodox Rally has slightly increased its vote, but will probably only maintain its single seat. The Ecologist Greens (European Greens) have also been polling 7-8%, suggesting they could win 2-3 MEPs, who would be their first representatives in the European Parliament.

Europe 2009 – Belgium

Guest post from our Benelux correspondent, Justin-Paul Sammons.

Like its smaller neighbour Luxembourg, Belgium will elect its EU representatives on Sunday 7 June; voting is compulsory (as it also happens to be in Luxembourg), and polls are only open from 8:00am to 1:00pm (until 3:00pm if you’re casting an electronic vote). Belgium and Luxembourg are also multi-lingual nations, but in terms of these elections, that’s where the similarities end.

Belgium subdivides itself into three electorates along linguistic lines. The northern part of the country, Flanders, speaks Flemish (almost identical to Dutch), while the southern part, Wallonia, speaks French. The third electorate is a small province in the east along the border with Germany where German is the main language. In 2004, the Flemish part delivered 14 MEPs, the French-speakers elected 9, and the German-speaking area had a sole MEP for a total of 24. This is now reduced to 22, with the Flemish and French-speaking electorates each losing one MEP.

Belgian national politics has as many parties as a minestrone soup has vegetables, so it’s no surprise that their MEP breakdown is similar:

Flemish-speaking:

  • Christian Democratic and Flemish / New Flemish Alliance (EPP): 4
  • Flemish Bloc (NA): 3
  • Flemish Liberals and Democrats (ALDE): 3
  • Social Progressive Alternative – Spirit (PES): 3
  • The Greens (EG/EFA): 1

French-speaking:

  • Socialist Party (PES): 4
  • Reformist Movement (ALDE): 3
  • Democratic Humanist Centre (EPP): 1
  • The Greens (EG/EFA): 1

German-speaking:

  • Christian Social Party (EPP): 1

While there are clear affiilations between some of the parties across linguistic boundaries, they still operate independently of each other, so Belgium really does send representatives from ten different parties to the EU.

Most of these parties are run-of-the-mill and have which can be found across the continent, with the exception of the Flemish Bloc. The party was founded in the late 70s but recently gained notoriety (and a lot of supporters) as a result of its anti-immigration policies. The other Belgian parties refused to go into a coalition with the Bloc at any level of government, effectively shutting them out from holding office. In 2004, the party was convicted under anti-racism legislation for actively promoting and attempting to pursue policies which were discriminatory and encouraged racial segregation. The Bloc subsequently disbanded, then reformed as Flemish Interests, removing the more controversial aspects of the Bloc’s policy platform but retaining assimilationist ideals.

Predicting the results in the German-speaking part of Belgium is pretty straightfoward. The Christian Social Party polled 42% in 2004 compared to 22% for an alliance between the Party for Freedom and Progress and Reformist Movement, so it is likely to retain its seat. Things are not as straightforward in the French and Flemish parts of the country, however, as both will elect one MEP fewer than in 2004. While logically this would mean that smaller parties like the Greens would be in danger of losing their seats in both electorates, the financial crisis hit Belgium’s banks pretty badly, and there is a lot of voter resentment against the major parties. In the French-speaking electorate, this week’s polls show that the Greens may triple their 2004 vote to become the second-largest party with 26% of the vote at the expense of the Socialist Party (social democrats), while in the Flemish electorate, Flemish Interest are the largest party in the polls at the moment, meaning they are set to gain seats alongside newcomers Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats (an alliance of existing liberal and democrat parties), which is led by former Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt.
Belgian voters will also elect their regional parliaments along the same linguistic subdivisions on 7 June.

Europe 2009 – Slovakia

Slovakia elected 14 MEPs  as one single national constituency  for the first time in 2004, and will elect 13 in 2009. The following was the 2004 result:

  • Slovak Democrat and Christian Union (European People’s Party) – 17.1%, 3 seats
  • People’s Party – Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (Non-Inscrit) – 17.0%, 3 seats
  • Direction – Social Democracy (Party of  European Socialists) – 16.9%, 3 seats
  • Christian Democratic Movement (European People’s Party) – 16.2%, 3 seats
  • Party of the Hungarian Coalition (European People’s Party) – 13.2%, 2 seats

The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia was previously in government, although they lost power in 1998. The Slovak Democrat and Christian Union (SDKÚ) was in power at the time of the 2004 European election, but at the 2006 election lost power to the centre-left Smer party (Smer is Slovakian for “Direction”). The current government consists of Smer, the People’s Party and one other party, the ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party. The opposition consists of the other three parties listed above.

I have not seen any polls for the Slovakian election, however it appears likely that both Smer and the Slovak Nationals will improve their position.

Europe 2009 – Hungary

Hungary elects its MEPs using proportional representation in one nationwide constituency. Hungary elected 24 MEPs in their first European election in 2004, and will elect 22 next weekend.

The 2004 election produced the following result:

  • Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Union (European People’s Party) – 47.4%, 12 seats
  • Hungarian Socialist Party (Party of European Socialists) – 34.3%, 9 seats
  • Alliance of Free Democrats (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – 7.7%, 2 seats
  • Hungarian Democratic Forum (European People’s Party) – 5.3%, 1 seat

Recent politics in Hungary has been dominated by rivalry between the conservative Fidesz and the centre-left Socialist Party (the successor to the Communist ruling party up until the 1980s). While the Hungarian Democratic Forum won the 1990 election, the Socialist Party won in 1994 in a landslide, and the 1998, 2002 and 2006 elections have all seen close results between the Socialists and Fidesz, with Fidesz winning in 1998 and the Socialists winning in 2002 and 2006.

Recent polls show a pretty decisive result, with Fidesz polling 66-71% in the polls produced in May, with the Socialist Party on 14-21%. The other two parties with incumbent MEPs are both consistently polling below 5%, suggesting they will likely lose representation.

There is one other party with a shot at winning a seat, the far-right Movement for a Better Hungary, who goes by the shorter name Jobbik. Jobbik has been polling around 4-7% in recent polls, which could give it one seat in the European Parliament. The party did not run in 2004 and did not qualify for seats at the 2006 Hungarian election.

Europe 2009 – Malta

The EU’s smallest country, Malta elects five MEPs by the Single Transferable Vote (like Ireland’s MEPs). This same system is used to elect Malta’s national parliament, with 13 5-member districts.

Maltese politics is one of the strictest two-party systems in the world. The only country that comes close to the level of duopoly is the United States. Two parties have dominated Maltese politics since the Second World War: the Labour Party (Party of European Socialists) and the Nationalist Party (European People’s Party). Indeed, in 1976, 1981 and 1987 there were literally no minor party or independent candidates. Alternattiva Demokratika was founded in 1989 and is considered to be the Maltese Green party. While they have contested every election since 1992, they have never gotten more than 2% in a national election, and never won a single seat.

In contrast, Alternattiva Demokratika polled quite strongly at the 2004 European election, with AD candidate Arnold Cassola polling just under 10%. After distribution of preferences, he came within 3% of winning a seat. In the end, three seats went to Labour and two to the Nationalist Party. Cassola, a dual Maltese-Italian citizen, then went on to be elected as an expatriate MP in the Italian Chamber of Deputies in 2006 for the centre-left coalition, before losing 2008.

Europe 2009 – Slovenia

Slovenia elects 7 MEPs next weekend, the same number it elected in its first European election in 2004. The 2004 election result was as follows:

  • New Slovenia (European People’s Party) – 23.5%, 2 seats
  • Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party) and Democratic Party of Retired People of Slovenia – 21.9%, 2 seats (both LDS seats)
  • Slovenian Democratic Party (European People’s Party) – 17.7%, 2 seats
  • Social Democrats (Party of European Socialism) – 14.2%, 1 seat

The election was a major surprise, with the Christian New Slovenia party coming out of nowhere to take first place. For much of the 1990s the Liberal Democrats and Democrats had respectively been the major parties in Slovenian national politics.

Following the 2004 election, a national election in October 2004 saw the Democratic Party win a major victory, with the Liberal Democrats coming second. Since the 2004 election, the Social Democrats developed into the main opposition, with the 2008 election seeing the Social Democrats coming first, slightly outpolling the Democratic Party. The Liberal Democrats and New Slovenia both saw their votes collapsing.

Recent polls put the Democratic Party in first place, on track to maintian their two seats with a slight increase in their vote to low 20s. The Social Democrats appear to be on track for a slight increase in their vote, which could give them a second seat.

The Liberal Democrats are polling 9-12%, and will win only one seat.  However, their former coalition partner, the Democratic Party of Pensioners is polling 5-12%, and could win a seat themselves. New Slovenia is polling about 10% and will retain only one of their two seats.

One other party, Zares, is a new party that split from the Liberal Democrats and polled 9% in the 2008 national election. Recent polls suggest they are on track to win one seat.

Europe 2009 – Poland

637px-european_parliament_constituencies_poland

Poland first elected MEPs in 2004, when they elected 54 MEPs. In 2009 they will elect 50 MEPs across thirteen constituencies, with each constituency electing between one and eight MEPs in 2004. Seats are allocated by proportional representation to parties that win at least 5% of the national vote. The first map shows the map of Poland’s constituencies.

The 2004 election saw the following parties win seats:

  • Civic Platform (PO – European People’s Party) – 15
  • League of Polish Families (LPR – Independence and Democracy) – 10
  • Law and Justice (PiS – UEN) – 7
  • Self-Defense of the Republic of Poland (SoRP – UEN/PES) – 6
  • Democratic Left Alliance-Labor Union (SLD-UP – Party of European Socialists) – 5
  • Freedom Union (UW – European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party) – 4
  • Polish People’s Party (PSL – EPP) – 4
  • Social Democracy of Poland (SDPL – PES) – 3

Polish politics shifts rapidly. The old Solidarity movement ruled until the 2001 election, when it lost all parliamentary representation, and at the time of the 2004 election, Democratic Left Alliance-Labor Union had a solid majority in the Parliament were in a minority government.

Since the 2004 election, the 2005 election was won by the far-right Law and Justice party, who led a conservative coalition. This coalition collapsed in 2007 and the opposition liberal conservative Civic Platform party formed government, with the support of fellow EPP affiliate Polish People’s Party.

League of Polish Families, who came second in the 2004 election, failed to pass the threshold at the 2007 parliamentary election, and do not seem to be standing in this year’s election. Recent polls have Civic Platform well in front, polling just below 50%. Law and Justice has been polling in the 20-25% range, while Democratic Left Alliance is sitting on 8-12%. The result seems likely to reinforce the current major parties.

Europe 2009 – Czech Republic

The Czech Republic was part of the 2004 enlargement of the European Union when 8 Eastern European countries and 2 Mediterranean countries joined with the existing 15 EU member-states. This took place one month before the 2004 European Parliament elections, in which the Czech Republic elected 24 MEPs. They will elect 22 in 2009, with the entire country voting as one constituency using proportional representation.

The 2004 election saw the following result:

  • Civic Democratic Party (European Democrats) – 30.04% – 9
  • Communist Party (European United Left) – 20.26% – 6
  • SNK European Democrats (EPP-ED) – 11.02% – 3
  • Christian and Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People’s Party (European People’s Party) – 9.57% – 2
  • Czech Social Democratic Party (Party of European Socialists) – 8.78% – 2
  • Independents – 2 MEPs

The result was the kind of dramatic result you don’t usually see in developed democracies. The Social Democrats were the governing party, governing in coalition with conservative minor parties. Turnout was extremely low and the Communist Party picked up SDP support.

Since the 2004 election, the 2006 national parliamentary election saw the Civic Democratic Party gain ground. The new Parliament made it impossible for either party to gain a majority without involving the Communist Party. The Social Democrats and Communists had 100 seats between them, while the Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats and Green Party (more conservative than many Green parties) won 100 seats. After weeks of tensions, two social democratic deputies abstained in order to allow the Civic Democrat-led government to take office.

The conservative government stayed in office until March 2009, when it lost a vote of no confidence. A new government was formed in May, led by non-politician Jan Fischer, who will lead a technical government until October elections.

The Civic Democratic Party has recently announced plans to leave the European Democrats along with the British Conservatives in order to form the Movement for European Reform, although it is unclear if this will be formed after the 2009 European election.

Recent polls have seen the Civic Democratic Party falling to about 25%, while the Social Democratic Party appear on track to recover most of their strength, polling in the high 20s or low 30s. The Communist Party has returned to its normal levels, polling in the low teens. The Christian Democrats have fallen from around 10% to 6-7%, while the SNK European Democrats’ vote has collapsed. The Green Party (European Greens) are polling around 6%, and will likely win their first MEP.

Europe 2009 – Austria

Austria elected 18 MEPs in 2004, and will elect 17 in 2009. All Austria’s MEPs are elected to represent the entire country. MEPs are elected by party list, although there is some room for candidates to receive personal votes. Voters may vote for individual candidates on each list, and if a candidate receives 7% of their party’s vote they are elected first, before candidates are elected in the order they sit on the party list.

The 2004 election saw a slim victory for the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPÖ – Party of European Socialists) over the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP – European People’s Party), 33.33% to 32.7%. Both parties gained extra votes compared to 1999, with the SPÖ winning 7 seats to the ÖVP’s 6. The 1999 election had seen the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ – No affiliation) win 23% of the vote, and this fell to 6.3% in 2004, with the FPÖ losing 4 of its 5 seats. The Freedom Party was at the peak of its popularity in 1999, when they followed up their Euro victory with a huge result in the October national election, resulting in the party going into government. In contrast, the 2004 election happened in the dying days of the conservative coalition government, with FPO leader Jörg Haider leading a split in the party in early 2005.

The remainder of the Freedom Party’s vote went to the Greens (European Greens), who gained 3% and a second MEP, and Hans-Peter Martin, who ran as an independent after previously being a Social Democratic MEP, winning almost 14% of the vote and two seats. His running mate, Karin Resetarits, has since fallen out with Martin and joined the ALDE.

The largest change since the 2004 election has been the split in the Freedom Party in early 2005, with FPÖ leader Haider forming the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ). Both parties gained ground at the 2008 parliamentary election.

Recent polls show the far right gain ground. The BZÖ has been polling around 5%, after never contesting European Parliament elections before, and the FPÖ is polling around 14-17%, up from 6.3% in 2004.

Both major parties have lost ground, polling in the high 20s, down from polling 32-33% in 2004. The ÖVP has been polling in first place in this week’s polls, although polls earlier in May had the SPÖ in first place. Both Hans-Peter Martin and the Greens have slightly lost ground, polling around 10% after getting 14% and 12% respectively in 2004.

Europe 2009 – Italy

Italy will elect 72 MEPs (down from 78) in 2009, voting on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th June. Italy elects its MEPs via 5 constituencies (pictured below right), and seats are allocated by constituency for all parties who win over 4% of the national vote. In 2009, the constituencies will elect the following numbers of MEPs:

  • Central – 14
  • Islands – 8
  • North-East – 13
  • North-West – 19
  • South – 18

There have been quite dramatic changes to the Italian party system in recent years. Italian national elections have seen Italy’s parties coalesce into two broad coalitions, but these have not necessarily been replicated in European elections.

The 2004 election took place during the second term of conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The sitting President of the European Commission (effectively head of government for the EU) Romano Prodi was stepping down to reenter Italian national politics.

The centre-left coalition United in the Olive Tree covered much of the centre-left, although it was not as extensive as national left-wing coalitions, excluding Greens and Communists. As it was a coalition, it’s constituent parts joined different European parties. Their MEPs joined the following European parties:

  • Party of European Socialists – 16
  • Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe – 6
  • European People’s Party – European Democrats – 3

On the other side, Berlusconi’s party Forza Italia (European People’s Party) won 16 seats, and the far-right National Alliance (Union for Europe of the Nations) won 9 seats.

Other parties winning seats were:

  • Communist Refoundation Party (United European Left) – 5
  • Union of Christian Democrats (EPP-ED) – 5
  • Lega Nord (UEN, formerly Independence/Democracy) – 4
  • The Greens (European Greens) – 2
  • Party of Italian Communists (UEL) – 2
  • 6 others in ALDE
  • 2 others in EPP-ED
  • 2 others

Since 2004, a lot has changed in Italy. Berlusconi was defeated by Prodi in 2006, before Prodi’s government fell in 2008 and saw Berlusconi reelected. The two largest parties on both sides of politics have also merged, creating the Democratic Party on the left and the People of Freedom (created from Forza Italia and the National Alliance) on the right.

In addition the more left-wing parties have coalesced into two coalitions, the Communist-dominated Anticapitalist Left and the Socialist and Green listed, running as “Left and Freedom”.

Most recent polls have People of Freedom clearly leading, polling in the high 30s or low 40s. In comparison, the constituent parties polled 31% in 2004. In contrast, the Democratic Party is polling 25-26%. The Olive Tree polled 31% in 2004. Although it’s worth noting some socialist parties who ran under Olive Tree in 2004 are not part of the Democratic Party, so it’s hard to judge if a 26% vote would be a backward step for the party. Neither People of Freedom or the Democratic Party has yet to determine which Europarty they will join, as both parties were created by mergers of parties who were part of different Europarties, but it appears they will likely join the respective major centre-left and centre-right coalitions.

The vote for far-right northern regionalist party Lega Nord has also jumped from 5% in 2004 to 9-10% in recent polls. The liberal party Italy of Values (ALDE), which polled about 2% in 2004, is polling 8-9%. The communist Anticapitalist Left polled about 8% in 2004, but is polling around 4%. The socialist-green coalition Left and Freedom is also polling lower than its 2004 performance.

It appears this election will see a shift to the right, and a strong gain for the European People’s Party, as the post-fascist National Alliance is brought into its coalition and the new People of Freedom gains ground on the left.

Correction: This post originally said that I couldn’t find the 2009 MEP numbers and had posted the 2004 MEP numbers per constituency. The numbers actually were the 2009 numbers.