Political balances in the new Parliament
As the dust begins to settle, what is the wider impact of the European election result on the European Parliament?
The most commented on aspect is the setback for the Socialists and the strengthening of the centre-right EPP - though the latter effect is negated by the loss of the British Conservatives, who hope to form their own, separate Group.
Yet the EPP cannot easily build a right-wing majority in the Parliament. The parties to its right are fragmented and are mostly people with whom they would not wish to be associated.
The fascist right, despite gaining the two BNP seats in Britain, lost seats in France and Belgium, gained some in Hungary and Romania, but overall cannot form a political group (a key to influence in the European Parliament), which requires at least 25 MEPs from a quarter (7) of the Member States, unless the Northern League of Italy joins them, which I hear is unlikely. Even if then, it is likely that their strongest common feature - hatred of foreigners - will make it difficult for them to work together for very long.
The eurosceptic right did not fare well in the elections. UKIP's "Independence & Democracy" Group failed to win enough seats to constitute a Group, having lost ALL its seats in Poland, Denmark, Ireland and Sweden. Even in Britain, despite the gift of the Westminster expenses scandal, it gained only a single seat. As to Libertas, it failed dismally, with even Declan Ganley's millions failing to win him a seat.
The Conservatives are desparately trying to build their own group - but finding it difficult to do so without taking on board some frankly embarrassing partners. Their flight to the fringes is still viewed as madness by most Conservative MEPs - see for instance Caroline Jackson's comments to the BBC yesterday (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/8096297.stm). It is unlikely that the EPP will see them as a partner, given that they have just walked out on their former colleagues, slamming the door.
Finally, the UEN (Union for a Europe of Nations) Group could well disappear. Its mainstays, Fianna Fail is set to join the Liberals and the former Italian AN has been absorbed into the EPP member in Italy. Their main leftover, the Polish PiS, is one of the Tories potential new partners - though their overt homophobia might yet prove too embarrassing for the latter.
All in all, those to the right of the EPP have enough numerically to constitute one or even two political Groups (given that the European Parliament has a lower threshold than most national parliaments for constituting Groups), but actually doing so requires the creation of alliances that are highly problematic - and even if they are successful, they will not be natural allies for the EPP.
Instead, the EPP will have to deal with parties of the centre and the centre-left. Even with the Liberals, they cannot obtain a majority. They will have to bargain with the Socialists and/or the Greens. The left cannot by itself get its way in this parliament, but nor can it be easily circumvented.