May 17, 2019 / 12:55 PM / 5 months ago

Factbox: The national stakes in the EU elections

LONDON (Reuters) - Beyond determining the balance of power of the next European Parliament, this week’s EU elections can have knock-on effects in the domestic politics of Europe’s member states. Here are some examples of how the elections play out nationally.

FILE PHOTO: A European flag is seen ahead of the start of a political rally of the Renaissance (Renewal) list for the European elections in Strasbourg, France, May 11, 2019. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler/File Photo

FRANCE - The election will serve as a referendum on French President Emmanuel Macron’s first two years in power. Having put Europe at the heart of his presidential campaign and having wagered on France leading euro zone reform, if he comes second to Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National, as polls indicate, it will be a body blow to his ambitions. It may also leave him weakened when it comes to negotiations over top EU jobs, including the European Commission president, whom Paris wants to be French.

GERMANY - A poor showing for Angela Merkel’s conservatives could lend weight to calls for the veteran chancellor to spell out in more detail how she envisages her previously announced departure from power. Her SPD coalition partners meanwhile, languishing in the polls, are divided over whether to take a sharp left-turn on economic policy or stick to their centrist course in the hope of a poll turnaround. Against this background, activists from most parties expect the far-right AfD to repeat its strong performance in 2017’s national election.

BRITAIN - The outcome of the EU election will be seized upon by both Brexit Leavers and Remainers and will likely be a further nail in the coffin of Theresa May’s premiership. In voter surveys, the Brexit Party of Nigel Farage is leading against May’s Conservative and the opposition Labour parties deeply split over Brexit, while Remainers must decide where to put their vote between three unambiguously pro-EU parties.

ITALY - Campaigning for the EU vote has driven a deep wedge between the ruling coalition parties - the far-right League and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement - putting its future at risk. The League hopes the ballot will see its share of the vote rise, strengthening its position. The opposition Democratic Party (PD) under new leadership hopes to overtake 5-Star, while former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia fears a showing of less than 10 percent could accelerate its decline.

DENMARK - Support for the European Union is at a historical high in Denmark mainly due to a chaotic Brexit. The campaign for the EU election, only 10 days before a national election, has focussed on things like climate change and border control. Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen has asked for a public vote on Denmark’s opt-out from EU defence projects, while opposition leader Mette Frederiksen of the Social Democrats has spoken against the free movement of labour around the EU.

POLAND - The vote will test the popularity of the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government ahead of a parliamentary election due in October or November. Opinion polls show PiS will likely come ahead in the EU vote but a coalition of opposition parties is close behind. If such a result was repeated in the autumn, then the opposition could get enough votes to form a government. This year will be key in shaping Poland’s position in the European Union. Once an influential member, Poland has become marginalised under PiS rule with critics accusing Warsaw of undermining democratic checks.

IRELAND - A bit of an outlier in terms of the dynamics of the election, Ireland has no populist or far-right forces and few truly eurosceptic candidates in contention. The main focus among voters tends to be on domestic issues. Analysis has focussed on the performance of the main parties, rather than how that will feed into their pan-EU party groups.

SPAIN - In Spain, the European vote is on the same day as local and regional ballots, seen as a potential milestone for political parties to set aside pre-election posturing and open talks on a new government after an inconclusive election on April 28. The Socialists of acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez won the election without securing a majority and will need the support of other parties to stay in power. A convincing European result for the Socialists is likely to reinforce his negotiating stance. Spain’s Socialists are hoping to claim a top EU job.

PORTUGAL - The European election is seen as a rehearsal for a general election in October, where the Socialists of Prime Minister Antonio Costa are expected to win, although they may not have a parliamentary majority.

HUNGARY - Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s rightwing Fidesz party is expected to secure a strong victory in European elections, having won a third landslide in national elections last year on a tough anti-immigration platform. The EU vote will have little significant impact in Hungary where Orban’s power is cemented until the next election in 2022. More open is whether Fidesz leaves the mainstream European Peoples’ Party (EPP) to side with far-right nationalists in the new European Parliament.

Compiled by Mark John with bureaus; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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