June 14. 2024. 2:26

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Votes still being counted but post-election deal-making underway


The European Election is not yet quite over. By Monday night, one member state -Ireland- had so far only confirmed who one of its 14 MEPs will be. But the overall composition of the new Parliament is clear enough for its Conference of Presidents to get to work, writes Political Editor Nick Powell.

“Constructive pro-European forces remain in a majority”, was the confident assessment of a European Parliament spokesperson, setting out the timetable for the days ahead. It is even possible that with the European People’s Party, the Socialists & Democrats, and Reform still having an overall majority between them, they can move from dividing up the top jobs in the Parliament to the deal-making that will eventually secure the election of the Commission President.

If Ursula von der Leyen secures the European Council’s nomination for a second term in time, the vote could come as soon as the Parliament’s opening session in Strasbourg on 16-19 July, though the next session, on 16-19 September, is the more likely bet.

It all has a feel of ‘business as usual’. As EU Reporter’s election analyst, former Irish Minister for Europe, Dick Roche, put it “the far-right tsunami did not occur. Parties on the right made gains, particularly in France and Italy but the much-talked-about rout of the traditional centrist parties did not come about.

“The political balance set post-Brexit in the ninth Parliament has endured. The centre held and Ursula von der Leyen’s position looks very secure. The next move, as EPP group leader Manfred Weber noted in his speech on Sunday evening, lies with Chancellor Scholz”.

Scholz’s SPD might have had a bad set of results but he remains German Chancellor, so his nomination of his former ministerial colleague in Berlin is essential for von der Leyen to seek reelection. However, that he will do just that is written into his coalition agreement with the Greens and the liberal FDP.

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As Weber also pointed out, the Commission President also needs the backing of Emmanuel Macron, the French President who put her name forward five years ago. His own bad election result -and a snap national parliamentary election now underway- are likely to banish any thoughts he had of trying to replace his protégé.

The final definitive election results are not yet known. In particular, counting in Ireland continues with only one candidate declared elected by Monday night. The country’s single transferable vote system enables voters to choose between candidates whilst also ensuring a broadly proportional outcome but it requires votes to be reallocated multiple times as candidates with the least support are eliminated and -eventually- the most successful ones declared elected in multi-member constituencies.

Already celebrating is Sean Kelly of Fine Gael (EPP), in Ireland South, one the three constituencies that return the Republic’s 14 MEPs. He is likely to be followed by Billy Kelleher of Fianna Fáil (Reform), though that may take several more counts.

In Midlands-North-West, no candidates have been elected after three counts. Independent Luke Ming Flanagan is ahead, followed by Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen and Fine Gael’s Nina Carberry.

In Dublin, Fianna Fáil’s Barry Andrews leads the field, with Fine Gael’s Regina Doherty in second place and Sinn Féin’s Lynn Boylan also looking set to take a seat. But it’s been a disappointing election for Sinn Féin (GUE/NGL), who have mounted a strong challenge in recent years to Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, long the dominant forces in Irish politics.

Those traditional rivals, now coalition partners, are neck and neck in the lead and it’s by no means certain that Sinn Féin will secure more than one seat. Turnout in Ireland was 50%, marginally below the EU average of 51%.

Parliament officials are taking comfort that just over more than half of Europe’s voters had taken part for the second election in a row. But that is to ignore the fact that the 2019 figure included the United Kingdom, where there was only 37% participation as the country headed for Brexit.

“The figures for turnout that are available are disappointing”, said Dick Roche. “This was perhaps the most talked about EU election since 1979. “The incoming Parliament needs to think long and hard about how it engages with European voters”.

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