Brexit Delay to Dent EU Ballot Win of Merkel Allies, Poll Shows

(Bloomberg) --

Expected U.K. participation in the European Union’s legislative elections next month will make it harder for the bloc’s biggest political family to claim victory, further clouding the outlook for appointments to top EU jobs, according to a new projection.

The European Parliament on Thursday released its fourth and final forecast of seats to be held by national parties and their EU umbrella groups in the assembly after the May 23-26 ballot. It’s the first survey by the 28-nation Parliament to include the U.K. -- a reflection of the EU’s April 10 decision to postpone Brexit until Oct. 31.

The EU Christian Democrats’ share of seats will fall to 24 percent, down from 27 percent in the previous projection last month and from 29 percent at present, according to the new projection. The Christian Democrats are home to just two U.K. members of the Conservative Party, whose 18 other European lawmakers belong to a different faction in the 751-seat EU Parliament.

The European Socialists, who include 19 members of the U.K. Labour Party, will have 20 percent of the seats, down from 25 percent currently and unchanged from the previous projection that excluded Britain, according to the latest forecast published at the assembly’s headquarters in Strasbourg, France.

Brexit Delay to Dent EU Ballot Win of Merkel Allies, Poll Shows

While the Socialists are still seen as the No. 2 group, their narrower gap from the top spot may make it harder for the Christian Democrats to lay continued claim to the leadership of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm. The Christian Democrats have put forward Manfred Weber, the faction’s floor leader and an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as their candidate to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as commission president in November.

The Socialists’ candidate to fill Juncker’s seat is Frans Timmermans, a Dutchman who is now principal vice president of the commission. The race to become the next commission chief, who must be proposed by national government leaders and approved by the EU Parliament, is among several high-profile jobs including European Central Bank president up for grabs in the bloc this year.

The latest outlook of Europe’s legislative elections is consistent with the previous three forecasts in signaling that a broader coalition of pro-EU political families will be needed to advance European legislation and other common projects during the forthcoming five-year term.

That’s because the combined share of seats of the Christian Democrats and the Socialists is still seen falling below 50 percent.

Europe’s Liberals continue to be seen as the No. 3 faction with 10 percent of seats and as potential kingmakers in the formation of any pro-EU majority coalition. Their ranks could swell with the addition of French President Emmanuel Macron’s Republic on the Move party, which is forecast to have 21 members, down from 22 in the previous projection.

The far-right League of Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini is projected to have 26 EU Parliament members, down from 27 in the previous forecast and up from six currently. The share of seats that will be held by the group to which the League belongs -- the Europe of Nations and Freedom -- is projected to be 8 percent, down from 9 percent in the previous forecast and up from 5 percent currently.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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