In my search for a new topic to write about I came across an interesting project. Predict09.eu is an initiative of the public relations and public affairs company Burson-Marsteller and three wise man. On this site they make weekly predictions of the probable outcome of the European Parliament elections in June 2009. The results are based upon a statistical model developed by 3 political scientists: Simon Hix and Nick Vivyan of the London School of Economics, and Michael Marsh of the Trinity College Dublin. It’s mostly based on previous results and national surveys.
Next to an overall prognosis you can find an analysis by Member State. This weeks forecast for Belgium says that all the main parties will lose except for the Flemish socialist (SPA) and the Wallonian Christian Democrats CDH. The main winners will be Lijst Dedecker (LDD), a right-libertarian Flemish party which is a European election virgin and Front National, a rather small but influential Wallonian party who is likely to get one seat in stead of none. Although the socialist would be happy with this prognosis, because at the moment they are not scoring so well in the Belgian polls, I do see a problem with the conclusion. They still count the Flemish socialist as a coalition of SPA and Spirit. This shows a lack of knowledge of the Belgian politics. Since April of 2008 Spirit had been called VlaamsProgressieven until the split of the coalition with SPA in January and then they changed their name into Sociale Liberale Partij (SLP). So the coalition no longer exists. Another coalition that is no more is CD&V – NVA. In the tables you can only find Christen-Democratisch en Vlaams (CD&V), NV-A is not even mentioned. So the fragmentation of votes will be even bigger than the researchers have predicted. Belgium may be a small country, but if they have made the same mistakes with other countries the fault margin will be even bigger than normal.
So although it seems like a good initiative you immediately begin to wonder about the accuracy of these predictions. You can actually find an answer on the site. Are they accurate? Fat chance. The creators themselves admit that it’s not clear yet which parties or coalitions will still be standing in the upcoming elections and more importantly it’s also not clear yet how the economic crises will affect voting behaviour.
Read it and weep
We will see more disappointment and tears than laughter in June because it’s almost a mathematical certainty that there will be more losers than winners. Because according to the Lisbon treaty – that still needs to be rectified - the total of seats in Parliament will be reduced from 785 to 736. There are less seats and more new parties so the competition is getting stiffer.
One of the main conclusions of the investigators is that the overall balance of power between the political groups is unlikely to change dramatically. It’s more the balance of power within the groups that will change.
I also came upon something funny on the website. A poll, were you could vote for the next President of the European Commission. Now that is fun, but the funniest thing was that I found the old Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt in the short list. You have Barroso, the current President; Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, President of the Party of European Socialists (PES); Monica Frassoni and Daniel Cohn-Bendit the co-Presidents of the European Greens and European Free Alliance (EFA) and then you have Verhofstadt. I doubt that most of you have heard of him. Although I’m not necessarily a fan of Verhofstadt I can’t help feeling a little bit proud that people would even consider a Belgian for this position. Even if they had put him in as a joke.