While populist and fringe parties largely met or exceeded expectations in May’s European elections, the three centrist parties in the new European Parliament (the EPP, S&D and ALDE) will together hold over 60% of the seats.
Subsequently, voting alliances between mainstream groups will still hold sway. This, combined with the overall lack of unity in fringe parties suggests that populist influence over legislation may be limited. UK influence in the European Parliament may well be lessened by the election results, if UK MEPs stand less chance of appointment to key roles in the European Parliament’s Committees.
The elections have also provoked a reaction from mainstream European leaders, many of whom are now offering prominent debates over the EU’s accessibility and reform. The medium-term impact of these elections may therefore include greater opportunity for those EU leaders interested in reform of the EU. The extent of popular discontent with the EU’s current configuration may lead to greater openness to change on the part of such leaders as French President François Hollande and a greater willingness to engage on their part with pro-EU reform leaders such as UK Prime Minister David Cameron. The European Council, mindful of the popular vote, may also be less likely to endorse candidates for European Commission President who do not have a profile as candidates interested in EU reform.