During the past few years, Italian and Spanish politics have been in the global media limelight as their established political parties struggled to maintain legislative majorities with newer parties chipping away at their electorates. The increasingly volatile and fragmented Spanish electorate has been called to the ballot four times in five years, while Italian voters boosted the political extremes into the mainstream. As neither Italian nor Spanish parties managed to secure the essential legislative majority for forming governments, they played the coalition-forming game with rather limited success. At the moment, both of them are governed by coalitions made up of “old” left and “new” (supposedly anti-establishment) left.
The stability of governing coalitions in Southern Europe will matter even more at the European level, as the United Kingdom has departed. As seen in our previous report, Brexit has deep ramifications on the European Parliament’s balance of power, with some European groups winning and others losing from this historical political development. The effects do not stop there though, as the British departure is set to increase the political weight of Italy and Spain, which will become heftier players on the European political scene, since they hold the third and fourth largest populations (and hence voting power) in the EU.
While Germany and France, the biggest EU countries, can count on comparably more stable political systems and the most powerful political parties across the EU (as seen in our previous report, German CDU benefits from longevity, while the French political system favours the concentration of political power), Italian and Spanish political parties fare lower than their countries’ size would predict. This is largely due to their fragmented and volatile politics.
As the stakeholders are now waiting for the Commission to send to the European Parliament and the Council a wide range of legislative proposals, the key question arises: how much actual agreement is there between governing coalition partners at the EU level? How will the governments and the MEPs from these countries behave vis-a-vis these proposals?
As always, Vote Watch looked behind the politicians’ campaign promises and bluster and uncovered their actual positions on current policy issues. Their voting behaviour in the European legislature can show which foes can actually become friends and which friends are actually foes. While the national and European legislative levels follow different political dynamics, they are nevertheless interrelated. Changes in the parliamentarians’ voting behaviour at the European level can signal future developments at the national level (or the other way around) as parties twist and turn to adapt to their electorates’ wishes.
- Click here to read the analysis on Italian parties.
- Click here to read the analysis on Spanish parties.
For more information, data, tailored research and training, feel free to write us at [email protected]