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Monday
Jun152009

European elections

As every article has told us, the recent European elections were a sweeping victory for the centre-right and the far-right across Europe, and the left are tongue-tied. By naming a few examples you can show the socialists losing seats in power and in opposition. But is this actually a fair characterisation of the election results? In terms of adjusted seats, out of a parliament of 736 the centre-right Christian Democratic parties gained an extra 20 seats while the centre-left Socialists lost 35 seats. However the big story on the left side of parliament is the shift from Socialists to Greens, who gained 13 seats off the Socialists. This is a long-term trend as left-politics tends to be shifting from work rights to social/environmental rights and is interesting, but is an internal left story. So we have Christian Democrats on +20 and Socialists/Greens on a net of -22, which translates to about 2.5% of seats shifting from centre-left to centre-right.

So the shift between centre-right and centre-left was much more mild than is reported in the press, it is also much less homogenous. Here are the results country-by-country with the balance between centre-right and centre-left seats (with the net to the left in brackets).

Centre-left win (ranked by margin)
Czech Republic 2:7 (+5)
Denmark 1:6 (+5)
Belgium 6:8 (+2)
Sweden 5:7 (+2)

Left-right tie or +1/-1
France 29:28 (+1)
Greece 8:9 (+1)
Malta 2:3 (+1)
Netherlands 5:6 (+1)
Austria 6:6 (even)
Estonia 1:1 (even)
Lativa 1:1 (even)
Spain 23:23 (even)
Cyprus 2:1 (-1)
Ireland 4:3 (-1)
Lithuania 4:3 (-1)
Luxembourg 3:2 (-1)
Romania 13:12 (-1)
Slovakia 6:5 (-1)
Slovenia 3:2 (-1)

Centre-right win (ranked by margin)
Italy 35:0[21] (-35 [-14])
Poland 28:7 (-21)
Hungary 14:4 (-10)
UK 0[26]:18 (+18[-8])
Germany 42:37 (-5)
Portugal 10:7 (-3)
Bulgaria 6:4 (-2)

The interesting thing about this ranking is that clearly most Europeans nations gave a basically even split between centre-right and centre-left votes. Only a handful had centre-right or centre-left winning more than one seat than the opponents. The other interesting thing is that you can account for almost the entire swing with just two countries - Italy and Poland, the two most famously unstable political systems in Europe, with massive swings and government changes every couple of years the norm. If you ignore these two countries there was almost no European shift.

What actually happened in the European elections was that the centre-left vote shifted from the Socialist parties to the Green parties. We had a couple of big shifts to the right in Poland and Italy, and a few extra seats dribbled to the far-right. The left should not be happy with the result, but it is simply bad reporting (and bad mathematics) to conclude that there was a Europe-wide shift between left and right.



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