Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini's efforts to undermine the EU status quo by rallying a broad coalition of eurosceptic groups during spring elections for the European Parliament are set to pay off big time, according to the first forecast of the expected results released by the chamber on Tuesday.
According to the polling, which was cited by the FT, Salvini's League Party is expected to make some of the most striking gains in the May vote, possibly becoming the second-largest party in the assembly after Germany's center right Christian Democratic Union.
Mr Salvini’s League is on course to dominate in Italy by winning 32 per cent of the vote and 27 seats, according to the poll. If so, it would be the second-biggest party in the chamber after Germany’s center-right Christian Democratic Union, which is forecast to hold 29 seats, down from 34 in the last election in 2014. The CDU is a mainstay of the European People’s party, the parliament’s main centre-right group. The EPP is predicted to slip from 217 seats to 183 seats, while the centre-left Social Democrat grouping is projected to lose almost one-third of its seats — from 186 to 135.
In total, Eurosceptic parties are expected to win 153 seats in the chamber. Though they control the same number now, their share of the votes will climb as the total number of seats in the chamber falls to 705 from 751 to account for the UK's departure. In addition to Salvini’s League, the Eurosceptic faction in the EUP includes Poland’s Law and Justice party, Italy’s Five Star Movement and France’s Rassemblement National. Law and Justice and France's RN have pledged to join forces in the coming parliament. Other Eurosceptic parties including Spain’s far-right Vox and the Dutch Forum for Democracy are expected to win seats in the chamber for the first time.
As Salvini's star rises, the pro-EU center-left and center-right forces that have traditionally dominated the chamber are struggling against a turning tide of public opinion. Turnout for the vote has been slowly declining, and fell to 42.6% in 2014. This has given anti-establishment leaders including Salvini and Hungary’s Viktor Orban an opening to win more of the vote at a time when popular sentiment has decidedly turned against internationalist pro-EU politicians like France's Emmanuel Macron.
The sliding fortunes of the parliament’s largest groups mean that the socialists and conservatives could fail to command 50 per cent of seats for the first time since the first European elections in 1979. However, with support from liberal and the Green groups they could still form a broad pro-EU alliance.
The figures are based on a compilation of national polls that will be updated regularly until the election.