MERCATOR Publication (2019)
In the past, European Parliament elections failed to mobilize a large part of the electorate and were often regarded as second-tier national elections. This year things might be different, however. Across Europe the political center is disintegrating and the European project itself is being put in question. The battle lines have shifted from the debt crisis and eurozone governance to a more profound challenge to current party systems, political discourse, and the functioning of democracies. Previously fringe anti-establishment parties now hold power at the national level in several EU member states. They have had arguably impact in areas such as migration, refugees and asylum, civic freedom, justice, and foreign policy. Meanwhile, the informal “grand coalition” between the centerright European People’s Party (EPP) and the center-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) party groups is widely expected to lose its majority in the European Parliament for the first time since 1979. For most of the existence of the parliament, the EPP and S&D decided on all legislative initiatives and on the top jobs in Brussels.