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United in diversity? The EU Parliament is about to find out | Analysis

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In an election that spans most of a continent, 28 countries and 400 odd million people, Sunday’s results have provided unsurprisingly a mosaic of complex stories.

There are no uniform trends; from London to Latvia, people voted in different ways on very different issues.

But if there is a narrative: it’s one set in that context, fragmentation and polarization.

Whither the old order?

A parliament where the two main parties, after decades, no longer command a majority. An election that saw the centre-right EPP and the centre-left S&D yet again bleed support to those further to the right and left.

With Angela Merkel's CDU conceding ground in Germany and bad results for conservatives in France and Italy, overall the EPP lost dozens of seats.

This makes the task of Manfred Weber, the group's choice for the next European Commission President, all the more challenging as he seeks to convince national leaders to back him. As well as undermining the leadership of Merkel, it also calls into question the wider traditional Brussels order.

It really wasn’t much better for the socialists; no recovery in France, a terrible night for Labour in the UK - but again it’s far from the full picture.

Notably the centre-left did well in Spain, in the Netherlands with Frans Timmermans, and began its recovery in Italy.

However, if 376 is the magic majority number inside the Parliament, a rainbow alliance of the centre, liberal left still falls short by 12 seats.

Options are limited.

Much has been made of the so-called "Green wave," crashing into Europe’s politics. In many ways, they had a fantastic night. Attracting young voters and defying expectations, they claimed significant gains in Germany, France, Finland, UK and Ireland.

Move away from the north and west of Europe, however, and the "Green wave" is barely more than a trickle.

Election success is as much about expectations as reality. The Greens marked last night as a win, beating muted expectations. The eurosceptic forces did well but not as well as many thought they would.

Disruptors divided

In Poland, Italy, Belgium, France and the UK, populist, nationalist parties put in a strong showing.

Salvini’s victory is very notable. Emmanuel Macron’s nemesis, the Italian deputy PM Mattei Salvini is setting about to form an alliance to cause havoc across the EU.

Last week, he gathered 11 other far-right European parties for a rally in Milan in front of a crowd of twenty thousand people.

Any new alliance will be a potent force in European politics but that potency is curtailed by divisions that run deep.

Hungary's Viktor Orbán doesn’t like France's Marine Le Pen, the Law and Justice Party in Poland distrust Salvini's Lega on Russia and the Brexit Party in theory won’t be around for long.

If the EU parliament and its politics is driven by fragmentation, the eurosceptic parties are fractured to an even greater extent.

And if Europe is experiencing a "Green wave," is the tide of populism turning?

Le Pen, while topping the poll in France, did worse than 2014, Geert Wilders also performed badly in the Netherlands and both the AfD and VOX underperformed in Germany and Spain respectively.

With this mosaic of results and no clear picture means we are in for a rollercoaster ride.

Yes, the vast majority of MEPs remain pro-EU - but stable coalitions look impossible and alliances could become ad hoc.

Just the beginning

And who will take the EU’s top jobs?

A divided parliament’s ability to unite behind a candidate will cede control to the EU Council, who meet tomorrow in an attempt to agree a process.

Merkel? Barnier? Lagarde? Vestager? Very possibly someone we haven’t thought off.

Brace yourselves. If politics was interesting before last night, you might not have seen anything yet.