European elections 2019: The Italian perspective

With less than three weeks to go before the European Parliamentary elections, which will take place across the 28 EU Members States between 23 and 26 May, the overall spirit in Italy is one of great uncertainty towards the vote to renew the European Parliament chamber.

What do the polls say?

According to a recent poll conducted by Demopolis, 18 million Italians are determined not to go to the polls on Sunday 26 May, the day Italy chose to vote, while 5 millions are still very uncertain on their participation in the vote. If the elections were to take place now, the survey estimates that the Lega would be at 31%, the Five Stars Movement at 23% and the Democratic Party (PD) at 22%. This result would be in line with the overall trend currently registered across Europe: traditional parties are facing an overall crisis across the European Union and are challenged by the rise of radical right, populist and Eurosceptic parties which are on the march across the bloc. Therefore, with anti-Europeans on their way to winning more than one-third of seats in the next European Parliament, the stakes in the May 2019 election are unusually high.

A closer look at the Italian parties and candidates: guess who is back?

With regard to the current ruling coalition, formed by the extreme right populist party, Lega, and the populist Five Stars Movement, on the one hand, Lega’s leader Matteo Salvini is one of the strongest voices among the European right-wing parties saying that it is important “to create a new Europe” more to their liking. His party has been trying to form an international group of nationalists across Europe, even though it has not gained much traction.

On the other hand, the Five Stars Movement is still hoping that a new grouping of populists could shift the distribution of power in a future European Parliament. However, the hope for the Five Stars Movement to be able to create its own political group within the newly formed European Parliament seems to be slimmer and slimmer in light of the difficulty to fulfil the requirement of having 25 Members of Parliament (MEPs) coming from 7 different Member States.

With regard to the left right of the spectrum, the Democratic Party, the former ruling party before the last general election of 2018, seems to fall behind in the polls compared to the other two parties. The Democratic Party will run on a common list together with the Siamo Europei (We are Europeans) movement, founded by the former Minister of Economic Development Carlo Calenda. In their program, PD and Siamo Europei propose to relaunch the role of Italy within the European institutions and work for a more welcoming, united and supportive Europe in front of those arriving through the Mediterranean.

Finally, the European elections will see an unexpected comeback with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who will run alongside his right-wing party Forza Italia. In explaining his candidacy, Silvio Berlusconi stressed his desire “to go and wake up Europe in the European People’s Party”. Forza Italia is currently expected to gain 8,5% on 26 May.

Projected seats in the European Parliament

Italy has the right to 73 seats out of the 751 in the European Parliament. As of today, the projected seats in the next European Parliament would look like the following:

  • 26 seats for Lega in the potentially newly formed Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) and Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) Party
  • 18 seats for the Five Stars Movement in a potentially newly formed political party group
  • 17 seats for the Democratic Party in the Socialists and Democrats Party (S&D)
  • 8 seats for Forza Italia which would belong to the European People’s Party (EPP)
  • 4 seats for the extreme-right party Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) in the ECR.

In conclusion, it seems clear that the share of undecided and the turnout will play a decisive role in defining the consensus of the parties on 26 May.