European Elections 2014 – results by Europarty

First thing’s first, what is a European Political Party (or a Europarty)? According to Wiki:

A European political party (formally, a political party at European level; informally a Europarty) is a type of political party organisation operating transnationally in Europe and in the institutions of the European Union. They are regulated and funded by the European Union and are usually made up of national parties, not individuals. Europarties […] express themselves within the European Parliament by their affiliated political groups and their MEPs.

Now they are important because they also field lead candidates (called “spitzencandidates”), who, according to a decision by the European Parliament and the precedent set in 2014, are the only ones who the EP will accept as a candidate for President of the European Commission.

This series of maps are born from the annoying habit of the mass media of treating the European Elections as national affairs, and only focusing either on patterns within nations, or on overall national results when looking at the entire European Union.

Following the variety of examples of “county level results” we see when the US holds elections, I decided to to create a similar map of Europe (and all its overseas territories where elections are held).

This being the EU, where “varietate” comes before “concordia”, there was an immense variety of problems when trying to have a uniform vision. Each country holds elections its own way (the whole restriction is that it has to be ‘proportional’), stores the data in its own way and is divided into administrative divisions differently. Not to mention the immense variety of national and regional parties, hence the need to group them by European-level affiliation.

So the baseline was trying to map the results by Europarties on the municipal level, which depending on the country are either LAU1 or LAU2 level divisions (see here), but in some countries that wasn’t possible. Ireland, Northern Ireland, Malta and Slovenia could only be mapped by electoral constituencies (which in the case of Malta is the whole country).

So without further ado, here are the maps, by European Political Parties:









Later Edit – Two more maps: the winning party and share won by the coalition backing the current European CommissionGagnant-v1
Maps made in QGIS, with lots of python and pandas in the data-wrangling phase, including xml parsing (bleah!). A good dose of post-processing in Inkscape.

On a personal note I’d love those meddling bureaucrats in Brussels to lay out a minimum standard of collecting, storing and making available election data on a local level, as I would love to see a bit more detail in Malta and the island of Ireland.

Also, Cyprus, answer your emails!

PS. Other articles will follow,  cause I have lots of data 😀


European Elections: which colors for which party?


Inspired by Lisa Charlotte Rost‘s article titled Election reporting: Which color for which party?, I decided to take a look at color assignments for ed to European Parliament Groups as they are featured in the press. While European elections get less coverage than the US elections or national-level elections in Europe, they increasing in importance from one election cycle to the other.

Before actually talking about how these groups are represented, it is good to understand how European elections work:

Every 5 years, the member states of the European Union hold elections to send a number of representatives to the European Parliament. Since these MEPs belong to different national political parties, they band together in groups that are similar ideologically, as doing so helps them to better coordinate politically, as well as it being useful in getting subsidies and places in various committees of the EP.

The Colors

So we’re going to look at the groups as they existed right around the 2014 elections, since we can get a wide range of presentations from multiple European media sources at roughly the same time. In keeping with Lisa’s article, we can see below the color assignments of these Groups both by the media source (on the right side) and on a color wheel, clustered by group (on the left):

Composite Out
Click on the image for a larger version

What we see first and foremost is that there is surprising coherence in the color choices, even though there the publications span multiple languages, and even includes an example from a site in far away Japan.

This coherence, I suspect,  might be the result of two factors:

  1. A convergence in time, as some earlier examples seem to suggest a lot less coherence in color choice (like the 1999 example from the Economist at the end).
  2. A sort of normative power of official charts put out by the European Parliament website, for example the first two lines in the chart (a lot of online publications just chose to use those)

National ‘flavours’

One interesting aspect is that sometimes color choices seem to be influenced by national conventions with regards to the parties that make up those groups. For example:

• SD is pink in some French sites, because PS, the French socialist party within the group, is often shown as pink on the national level
• EPP is black in one German example (CDU, the biggest EPP member from

Germany is traditionally shown as black, as is the Austrian ÖVP)
• EFDD is purple in 2 British examples, even though the group logo is turquoise. That’s because UKIP, the main party of the group is associated in the UK with the color purple


The fixed and the still evolving

When it comes to the groups themselves, we can see that some groups have clearly occupied certain colors. The liberal ALDE is always yellow (a color traditionally associated with liberalism) and the Greens-EFA group is, well, green.

The left is also pretty consistent in its use of red, as well as the distribution of light – for center-left SD – versus dark red – for the far-left GUE/NGL, thus marking ideological intensity.

The same cannot be said of the right side of the spectrum, where we sometimes have 3 groups using hues of blue, albeit the 3rd group, the EFDD, is shown pretty consistently in turquoise, and if not, some other, non-blue hue, like purple, orange (?) or brown. Thus we shall focus on the other two groups: the center-right EPP and the conservative ECR.

Here, the meaning of the intensity of the color is not yet settled, so we have two competing situations:

• EPP light blue / ECR dark : thus intensity showing degree of ideological intensity, similar to what we saw on the left side of the spectrum. Or…
• EPP dark blue / ECR light : the more frequent case, where intensity correlates with importance of the group, or to put it differently, with its electoral weight, the EPP being easily the larger of the two.

And last, but not least, the “Non-Inscrit” group (NI), which is just a fancy way of saying ‘the group of those outside groups’ are in shades of grey, a color often used in charts to mark the ‘Others’ category, although the occasional use of brown could be explained by the presence of many far-right parties in this group (hinting at “brown-shirts” I presume).

This article is part of a study for a later cartographic project.

Colorwheels done in python/matplotlib, the rest in Inkscape.

The EU is quirky, but so are most European states

EU-Political Systems

The chart above is born out of the feedback that an earlier chart received on-line. I had made a Functional Chart of the EU, in which I tried to “bring home” the political setup of the European Union, by showing where each institution gets its mandate from, and what each institution would be called if instead of being a supra-national entity it was a nation-state. To this end I emphasized that, for example, the Council of the EU (i.e. ‘of Ministers’) is actually the “Upper House” of the EU Legislature.

What sometimes happened was that the complexity of the system was highlighted as proof that the EU is “difficult to understand” for the average Joe, contrary to the straightforward way national political systems function. Another angle of criticism was using some features of national systems as a sine qua non of a democratic system. To put it differently, the argument went: “My nation does X, and is democratic. If the EU does not have X, it is therefore undemocratic”, where X is a feature that is not actually present in all European democracies.

These two lines of criticism seemed to suggest that people don’t always realize how complex national political systems are and how diverse European nations are when it comes how they have evolved as political systems. I myself have learned that Romania’s way of confirming a government by a vote of both houses of Parliament in joint session is not, in fact, that common in our Union.

But there are wonderful details that I found throughout the Single Market states:

  • there is no explicit vote of confidence for the Danish PM
  • the Swedish PM is nominated by the Speaker of the Parliament, not by the King
  • Switzerland has a Collective Presidency
  • Cyprus has no PM
  • Sometimes ministers are nominated by the Head of State after consultations with the PM
  • The bigger European states tend to be complicated
  • Upper Houses are often very… original beats

So while the EU does have its quirks, there is plenty of diversity on the national levels as well.

On a side note, as I made the Functional Chart of the EU, I quickly became fixated with a particular type of chart one often sees on Wikipedia articles, mapping the way the electorate and the 3 powers of the state – executive, legislative and judicial – interact with each other.

There little information on-line on these types of charts. On a summary look, It seems to me that they are, in essence, a type of flowcharts, but I would welcome any further reading on the history of these types of charts.

And I also welcome any feedback in case of any mistake I might have slipped in.

Source: mainly Wikipedia. Tool: Inkscape

How much EU is there around Brussels?

Two years ago Andy Woodruff wrote a fun blog entry about land area plotted by latitude and longitude, where he proceeded to squish the continents’ area along the X and Y axes (just like Bill Rankin did with Earth’s population earlier).

Andy’s two images combined

His post was the catalyst for me to try mapping the next step: squishing an area towards a point.

In fact, there was an a question floating around my brain earlier about the EU: “If I sit in Brussels, the de facto capital, how much union is there in each direction?”

It might feel like the answer is : “Look at a map!”, but due to history and geography, the EU’s territory snakes around the Baltic Sea, the Western Balkans candidate countries, not to mention that big hole called Switzerland. On the other hand you have detached areas, such as the UK and Ireland, or Cyprus.

So I plotted the EU onto a an Lambert azimuthal equal-area projection where I took Brussels as the center, thus lines spreading out radially from the center wouldn’t be distorted, while the areas of the countries stayed constant no matter how far from the center. To add a bit of color, without making one for each of the 28 member state, I colored them by the year they joined the EU.EU Melt - Before

I then wrote a python script that in essence iterated along each line starting in the chosen center and ending on an outer pixels, and moved the colored pixels as much as possible towards the center. For finding the relevant pixels I used this adaptation of Xiaolin Wu’s algorithm, and it took some fine tuning before I got a good result.

So here it is: Brussels sucking the EU towards it…

EU Melt - After sq

And in .gif version (click to enlarge):Gif EU Melt

As one can see, I only used the main European territories of the EU plus the Macaronesian Outermost Regions (Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands), due to their geographical proximity to Europe, but I ignored the other OMRs such as French Guyana, Reunion or the ones in the Antilles.

In the end, the resulting shape is somewhat Rorschach-ish, and to me it kinda looks like a bat, or a sad bumblebee. I wonder what others see?

Rorschach test

Later Edit.

.gif version showing EU enlargement and Brexit:

GIF Zones

European parties on the political compass

Found an interesting set of data via Alexandre Afonso’s blog, called the Chapel Hill Expert Survey which “estimate[s] party positioning on European integration, ideology and policy issues for national parties in a variety of European countries. Questions on parties’ general position on European integration, several EU policies, general left/right, economic left/right, and social left/right are common to all surveys.” It has data for various years in the 1999-2017 period, and below are the various political families* mapped on the political compass:

EU Party 99-17 annotated

Made with python / matplotlib and assembled in GIMP.

*) – According to the explanations, political family here is not the EP Group or the Europarty but: “classification is primarily based on Hix and Lord (1997), except that we place confessional and agrarian parties in separate categories. Family association for parties in Central/Eastern Europe is based primarily on Derksen classification (now incorporated in Wikipedia), triangulated by a) membership or affiliation with international and EU party associations, and b) self-identification”.

European President

The EU is often accused of being too complicated and difficult to understand by the European every-man.

One aspect of this critique is that every institution is headed by a President, and wouldn’t it be great if things were more like in a normal country, where the Parliament is headed by a Speaker, the government by a Prime-Minister, and the state – if it’s a republic – by a President?

Not all European countries have this neat linguistic differentiation of roles. Italy is just presidenti all around, and Croatia next door are just one predsjednik after another. Even in countries that do make distinctions, things can be complicated. The Third and Fourth French republics had a President of the Council (sounds familiar?) instead of a Prime-Minister, and the PM of Greece (Πρωθυπουργός) is also called the President (Πρόεδρος) of the Government, using the same word as the Head of State or the Speaker.

EU President.png

But I must concede that a re-branding of the main institutions could go a long way to making the European Union more intuitive to the average Joe, and thus less stressful. So here are some suggestions:

  • President of the European Parliament” should be called the “Speaker“. This is a no-brainer for English, but it could be problematic in other languages.
  • “President of the European Council” should become “Chairman of…” because his role is one of mediator more than a decider, and the Council itself is actually the Head of State of the Union, collectively. One problem that could arise is that in some language -like Romanian – there is only one word used for both president and chairman
  • President of the Commission”. While I like this as it is, given the position’s prominence, alternatives could include “Head-Commissioner”, “Chief-Commissioner” or “Commission Head” in situations where the above Council President cannot be referred to as “Chairman”.

All in all, I think the linguistic imperative should be to separate the titles, more than make them identical in all the Union’s languages. Having the EuroParl President be called “Speaker” in English and “Marszałek” in Polish might not be problematic, and it might give the listener a sense of familiarity.

Note: The aesthetics of the visualization were inspired by my recent trip to the British Museum. I have wanted for some time to make a more artsy viz. Feedback always appreciated.

Mapping the gender of Brexit

Expanding on the information gathered on Jon Worth’s blog via his twitter feed and on the info provided by the fine people of /r/AskEurope, here is a map of the grammatical gender assigned to the word ‘Brexit‘ in Europe’s various languages.

Brexit Gender

Some interesting points:

Sardinian seams to follow Italian in that it is feminine (‘sa Brexit‘), while Friulian doesn’t (‘il Brexit’ – see [pdf]), being masculine like most other Romance languages.

Corsican, although quite close to standard Italian, also uses the masculine (‘u Brexit‘)

Greece has two forms, a native calque (‘Βρέξοδος‘ – feminine), as well as the original English version (neuter), with the latter being more widespread.

Scottish-Gaelic also has a native word just like Irish (‘Brfhàgail‘ – feminine) but some articles on BBC’s Gaelic service seem to use the English form of the word, which I assumed is a masculin.

Latvian either uses Brexit as it is, and considers it non-gendered, or it Latvianizes it into ‘Breksits’, which is masculine. I’m not sure which is more prevalent.

Some leaps of faith:

Given that both Dutch and West Frisian have had their masculine and feminine merged into a common class, and that most nouns have the same gender in both languages, I assumed that the West Frisian ‘de Brexit’ is masculine, like its Dutch equivalent.

I assumed Aromanian mirrors Romanian, so it’s probably sg. ‘Brexitu, pl. Brexituri’.

Given that all Slavic languages are masculine, I extended the assumption to the Sorbian languages in Eastern Germany.

Out of experience, Faroese tends to follow Icelandic, and given that both have 3 genders, and both seem to assign neuter to nouns without ending. So Faroese Brexit is neuter.


The base map is a modified version of Andrei Nacu’s map from Wikimedia Commons.

Language maps such as these might overemphasize minority languages.

Made in Inkscape.