UK and Netherlands kick off European Parliament Elections today
Elections for the European Parliament start today in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands and they go through to Sunday 25th May.
There will be 382 million people voting across the 28 member states from Ireland in the west to Cyprus in the east. Ireland will vote on 23rd May and the Czech Republic will be voting on 23rd and 24th May. Latvia, Malta, Slovakia and Italy take their turn on 24th May and the remaining 20 member states vote on 25th May.
Voters will be voting for 751 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and elections have been held every five years since 1979 with more and more countries participating as they joined the union. The last election in 2009 was the lowest turnout at 43% and there are no great hopes that turnout will rise dramatically in this election.
These elections are the second largest democratic exercise in the world after India. Unlike India there are no parties that cross the whole of Europe, each country has its own national parties. However, there are seven political groups which cover the political spectrum; the two most important of these are the broadly centre-right Group of the European People’s Party (EPP Group) which holds 265 seats at present and the broadly centre-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) which has 184 seats in the current parliament.
There are four countries that have compulsory voting; they are Belgium, Cyprus, Greece and Luxembourg.
There are no pan-European opinion polls conducted and each country teds to have its own opinion polls which are of varying accuracy. There have, however, been a number of projections made based upon national polls; these suggest that the centre-right will lose seats and the centre-left will make some small gains. The parties most likely to make the greatest gains come from the eurosceptic parties across Europe ranging from left-wing parties such as Syriza in Greece to the far-right such as the National Front in France. Some commentators are predicting that eurosceptic parties could win as many as 200 seats, but they are unlikely to come together as one voting bloc.
The United Kingdom elects 73 seats to the 751 seats in the European Parliament (EP). At the last election the centre-right Conservative Party won 26 seats and the centre-left Labour Party won 13 seats. The Eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP) also won 13 seats whilst the centre-left Liberal Democrats won 11 seats.
Voting in the UK takes place through a regional party-list proportional representation system across twelve regions including Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. There are a total of 37 parties putting up 747 candidates.
Opinion polls in the UK suggest that the Eurosceptic UKIP could be the top party with between 29% and 32% of the vote. Labour is likely to come second with around 29% and the ruling national coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are likely to get around 23% and 9% respectively.
Polling stations are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time.
The Netherlands elects 26 seats to the 751 seat European Parliament (EP). At the last election there were a number of electoral alliances. The centre-right Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) won five seats in 2009 and the right-wing Eurosceptic Party for Freedom (PVV) won four seats.
The centre-left Labour Party (PvdA), centre-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), centrist Democrats 66 (D66) and centre-left GreenLeft (GL) each won three seats with two other parties winning seats.
Opinion polls for this election suggest that the Eurosceptic PVV will win four or five seats this time. The national ruling coalition parties, the VVD and PvdA are expected to win four/five and two/three seats respectively. The other party which is polling better than in 2009, D66, could increase its tally to three/five seats.
There are 19 parties/lists putting up 345 candidates and polling stations are open from 7.30 a.m. to 9 p.m. local time.