The recent European Parliament elections saw a record turnout of 50 percent of the voters, the highest in two decades. This is a sharp increase from 2014 when voter turnout was recorded at 42.6 percent. 751 new members were selected for fresh 5-year terms over a period of four days between May 23 and May 26.
3 things to know about the European Parliament elections
1. Pro-environment win
The Greens, a coalition of parties that focus on environmental and climate issues, saw massive gains in the elections. The parties won 69 seats this time compared to 52 seats in the 2014 elections. This essentially gives them a say in the European Parliament. In Germany, the Greens won 21 percent of the votes, just behind Merkel’s coalition. The Greens also saw sizeable gains in Finland, France, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Much of the surge in public support is attributed to the enthusiasm of young European voters.
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“Six months or a year ago, we were predicted to lose seats as a movement. But since last autumn, there has been an increased focus on global climate issues, which found their way into the public consciousness and hearts and minds particularly of young people… Even if they were not voting themselves, they communicated to parents and grandparents. People told me personally in the last few weeks that they were voting Green because their children asked them to. That’s something we hadn’t seen before,” Ciaran Cuffe, a Green Party representative from Dublin, said to The Guardian.
2. Gains for conservatives
Conservative parties were projected to make significant gains in the elections. And though they did manage to gain some ground, it was less than expected. Most far-right groups had raked up the issue of large-scale migration to boost their chances. Yet, it failed to win more seats despite record voter turnout. Some believe this to be the result of a softening stance of the leftist parties on the migration issue. While the leftist groups were hardcore pro-migration a few years back, the huge negative sentiment from the public has led many parties to not push the agenda too much. This essentially meant that the conservative parties could not position themselves as the sole force against illegal Middle Eastern and African immigration.
Despite the less-than-projected gains, the elections were a strong indication that Europe is increasingly becoming interested in conservative voices more than liberal ideologies. In France, the National Rally party gained 23 percent of the votes, beating President Emmanuel Macron’s coalition. In Hungary, the nationalist party Fidesz accounted for a whopping 52 percent of the vote. PM Viktor Orban has been very vocal against mass migration, saying that he would prefer having leaders in the EU who reject migration rather than try to manage it. In Italy, the League party garnered close to 34 percent of the votes to emerge victorious.
3. More women in parliament
This year’s elections put more women in the European Parliament than ever before. The share of female members in the parliament jumped to 39 percent from 36 percent last time. Women will now account for 286 out of 751 seats in the parliament.
“We now need to focus on the future of the European Union. We ask from the member states that they each propose two people for the role of European commissioner, at least one of them being a woman. It will offer more diversity of experience, background and perspectives to choose from and will benefit all people in Europe,” Gwendoline Lefebvre, President of the European Women’s Lobby (EWL), said in a statement (The Guardian).
The ratio of female parliament members is better than the UK House of Commons where only 32 percent of MPs are women. In the US, 23.6 percent of members of the House of Representatives are females.