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Predicting same left-right balance in next EU parliament

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Predicting same left-right balance in next EU parliament
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The colouring of the European Parliament is not expected to change much after this June’s voting. An online prediction of the results, ‘Predict09’, has been presented by a group of political scientists. It is based on opinion polls and statistical modeling of national parties’ performance.

Its authors, presenting their work in Brussels, forecast that Britain’s Tories will end up with the same number of seats in the assembly as they have now, and that labour will pick up a few more. The UK Independence Party, however, is seen shedding a few. Today the centre-right EPP-ED has the most seats, followed by the socialists and liberals. The study says the biggest groups will decrease slightly not only in number of seats but also percentage terms. The new legislature will have fewer members, but Predict09 anticipates very little shift in the left-right balance. Its engineers are confident that voters will continue to see their concerns in a national and not a European or broader context. Simon Hix, with the London School of Economics and Political Science said: “We are seeing support for extreme left and right parties going up slightly, particularly in places like France. We are seeing support for extreme right parties or populist parties going up, particularly in places like the Netherlands. So, instead of thinking that the economic crisis might favour, let’s say, the social democrats, what we are seeing is (right now, if it is having any electoral effect), what it is doing is leading to fragmentation of the vote to the extremes.” According to the public affairs firm that commissioned the study: “The even split between centre-right and centre-left forces in the next parliament will create a more complex environment for EU policy making.” The prediction will be updated in the run-up to the elections between 4-7 June. Michael Marsh, with Trinity College Dublin, said: “I think in the current climate in many countries, Europe appears an awful lot more important than it might have done before. We see signs in Denmark, of thinking, yet again, about joining the euro. We see in Ireland a complete reversal in views on the Lisbon Treaty, and elsewhere I think. There are many publics that begin to see that Europe may be more important to them than they might have thought it was.” Some 375 million people are eligible to take part in the bloc’s seventh elections held by universal suffrage. Even so, said one of the researchers, for the voters, the public and the media, these are still national elections. The study said Germany’s Social Democrats would be the biggest party in the parliament, followed by the British Conservatives and right-wing parties from France, Italy and Poland.