EU Parliament Election Results: Joe's 8 Quick Takeaways

European Parliament in Strasbourg
Photo credit: Diliff, via Wikimedia Commons
Good morning everyone! For those of you who didn't stay up late like Otto and I, you are likely waking up to the news breaking across the continent of the rise of greens and nationalists in EU Parliament as well as the relatively weaker results from the major establishment European People's Party and European Party of Socialists factions. 

While most of the international attention is focused on political sea changes in major western European powers such as France, Italy, and the UK, the major story here in Latvia has been that it looks like not much has significantly changed when it comes to the makeup of the next delegation to EU Parliament. Here are the results of the top 10 parties, according to the country's central election committee:

Jaunā Vienotiba: 26,24%, two deputies (European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis and MEP Sandra Kalniete)
Saskaņa: 17,45%, two deputies (former Mayor of Rīga Nils Ušakovs and former Vice-Mayor of Rīga Andris Ameriks)
Nacionālā apvienība: 16,40%, two deputies (MEP Roberts Zīle and Culture Minister Dace Melbārde)
Attistībai/Par!: 12,42%, one deputy (Latvian Political Association Chairman Ivars Ijabs)
Latvijas Krievu savienība: 6,24%, one deputy (MEP Tatjana Ždanoka)
Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība: 5,34%, no deputies
Latvijas Reģionu Apvienība: 4,98%, no deputies
Jaunā konservatīvā partija: 4,35%, no deputies
"PROGRESĪVIE": 2,90%, no deputies
KPV LV: 0,92%, 0 deputies

Otto and I will be unpacking and analyzing the results on the podcast episode we record on Tuesday, but in the meantime, in honor of the eight people Latvia will be sending to Brussels and Strasbourg for the next half-decade, here are my personal eight quick takeaways from the results:
  1. The Euroskeptic/populist wave that has spread through Europe hasn't made much of a mark here in Latvia. The only elected parties that could be described as "Euroskeptic" by any stretch of the imagination, Nacionālā apvienība (often described as very "soft" Euroskeptic by the media due to their reluctance towards greater EU integration), and the Kremlin-friendly Latvijas Krievu savienība (Latvian Russian Union), both got within 2 percentage points of what they received in the previous election. Even more, the shooting star populist KPV LV party that was the second most vote-getting party in November's Saeima election (though not technically "Euroskeptic") completely fell off the map this time around. While people might not be happy with all aspects of the EU here in Latvia, the fact that none of the more explicitly Euroskeptic parties polled above 1% seems to show that Euroskepticism hasn't taken off here the same way it has in some southern and western European states.

  2. KPV LV wasn't the only highly vote-getting party that didn't fare well in the Europe-wide vote. Jaunā konservatīvā partija, currently the largest single faction in the national governing coalition, failed to cross the 5% mark. Although international politics has never been their focus, such a low result could be a sign that they haven't quite captured the public's imagination since bursting into power last November.

  3. Despite months of negative press coverage and multiple investigations and criminal proceedings, ruling party of Rīga City Council Saskaņa (Harmony) did just fine, with both of the top officials who lost their jobs due to the ongoing all-enveloping corruption scandal, former Mayor Nils Ušakovs and former Vice-Mayor Andris Ameriks (technically from sister party Gods Kalpot Rigai) about to book tickets to Brussels. However, considering how investigations into potential criminal activity over the past ten years have been heating up, the distance between Belgium and Latvia might not be enough for Rīga's fallen dynamic duo to escape potential consequences for long.

  4. While they might have lost two seats, Jaunā Vienotība has capped off a stunning turnaround of their fortunes, going from polling at less than the required 5% to be included in Saeima a year ago to recapturing the prime ministership and topping the EU Parliament polls. Considering that this time last year many analysts had already started predicting which of Vienotība's top leaders might go to which other party, it just goes to show that as New York baseball legend Yogi Berra famously put it back in 1973, "it ain't over till it's over."

  5. Zaļo un Zemnieku saviebība (the Union of Greens and Farmers), the party of former Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis and current President Raimonds Vējonis wasn't quite as lucky. Former Minister of Finance Dana Reizniece-Ozola wasn't able to overcome the negative reputation that the party's one MEP Iveta Grigule gained over the past five years, and it looks like ZZS's comeback will be a bit delayed.

  6. Although the major story in Latvian politics over the past year has been the rise of the political newcomer (with 45 of 100 members of the new Saeima lacking previous experience), the only "new" party to get elected to Brussels is Attistībai/Par!, a faction that is dominated by political veterans. Even counting A/P!, the three new parties to get elected into Saeima in 2017 combined for only a measly 17.69% this time around. It seems that at least when it comes to the European level, voters aren't quite as hungry for change as they are at the national level.

  7. Despite many predictions that the left-wing Progressīvie party might finally break out in this election, it looks like the country isn't quite ready for their brand of politics quite yet. Few expected them to place as badly as they did, and this will certainly be a setback for the upstart progressives.

  8. Although turnout was slightly this year (33.5%) than in 2014 (30.24%), it's still far lower than the record high 53.39% in 2009. While there has been plenty of buzz about politics on social media over the past few years, it doesn't seem that this has quite translated into the kind of concrete civic engagement that actually going to the polls is.
A few fun facts:
  • MEP Roberts Zīle (Nacionālā apvienība) has continuously served since Latvia first joined European Parliament in 2004. If he serves all 5 years of the next term, that will be two entire decades.
  • Current Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņs served in EU Parliament for nearly ten years from 2009-2019 before becoming the second ever sitting MEP to take the premiership after Valdis Dombrovskis did so in 2009.
  • In total, three prime ministers have served as MEPS; aside from Kariņš and Dombrovskis, former Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis (who served as Latvia's first post-occupation head of government from 1990 - 1993 and then also from 2007 - 2009 at the height of Latvia's financial crisis) represented Latvia in Brussels and Strasbourg from 2009 - 2014.
  • This is just the fourth time Latvia has voted in the EU Parliament election since joining the union in 2004.
Otto and I will be back in a few days with more. Until then, take care!

To know exactly when the new podcast episode is out, make sure to press "subscribe" at the top of this page, or, even better, subscribe to the podcast on your favorite app! We are available on all major platforms including Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, Soundcloud, Stitcher, TuneIn, and many more! Finally, if you haven't already, "like" us on Facebook for "stories of the day" each evening!