Elections 2009

Like an athletics race in a deserted stadium, the campaign for the European parliamentary elections is set for a tense finish – and few except the most dedicated fans are watching. Read more

Interactive map: the election campaign across Europe FT

Q&A: guide to the European elections FT Read more

Opinion polls show that the general European public has got only the vaguest idea of what the European Parliament does. So here is a personal six-point guide:

1. The parliament has equal power with the Council of Ministers (national governments) in deciding most European Union-wide laws. This will increase to cover virtually all EU legislation if the Lisbon treaty comes into force next January. Read more

Across Europe, politicians of various political stripes are stamping their feet in impotent fury. José Manuel Barroso, the centre-right Portuguese leader who has served as European Commission president since 2004, seems strongly placed to secure a second five-year term. His enemies and critics would love to stop him, but all they can do is boo from the sidelines like disappointed children.

Barroso’s adversaries, especially on the left, have only themselves to blame. If they wanted to torpedo his reappointment, they should have put forward a candidate for Commission president in next month’s European Parliament elections. But petty rivalries, unseemly personal ambitions and a good deal of incoherent political tactics put paid to that. By contrast, Europe’s centre-right parties rallied behind Barroso, even if some supporters held their noses when they agreed to back him. Read more

A new website, http://www.votewatch.eu/, was launched this week with the noble aim of improving transparency in the European Union affairs’s and perhaps even raising the quality of EU public debate. Its main achievement is that, for the first time, it makes the voting records of members of the European Parliament available online. Later this year or early in 2010, the website will be expanded to include coverage of votes in the EU’s Council of Ministers, which groups the 27 member-states’ governments. Read more

The European Parliament this week launched its promotion campaign for next June’s elections to the legislature. Among the publicity material are postcards asking questions such as “How should we help balance family and career?”, “How much labelling do we need?” and “What should cars run on?”

According to a combination of 19 national opinion polls, the winner of the June 2009 European Parliament elections will be the centre-right European People’s Party, which is projected to pick up 265 of the 736 available seats. The Socialists are predicted to win 195 seats and the liberals 95, with the rest divided among the far left, Greens and rightwing nationalists.

The centre-right is therefore on track to remain the parliament’s largest force, an outcome that would boost José Manuel Barroso’s chances of reappointment as European Commission president. Read more

I was talking this week with Graham Watson, leader of the liberal group in the European Parliament, about the forthcoming elections to the legislature, and I was struck by two points he made.

“The European Parliament is now the most powerful institution in the European Union, but hasn’t recognised it,” he said. And later on: ”The big question about the elections is, is the turnout going to slip further? I think not, and it may even start climbing again.” Read more

To get a sense of how the financial turmoil and economic recession are reshaping European politics, take a look at the socialists’ manifesto for next June’s European Parliament elections. “This crisis marks the end of a conservative era of badly regulated markets. Conservatives believe in a market society and letting the rich get richer, to the detriment of everyone else. We believe in a social market economy…”

When they plotted their strategy, socialist leaders across Europe clearly decided that their best line of rhetorical attack would be to paint their opponents as reckless advocates of unrestrained free market economics. “The conservatives often talk about economic and social crises as if they are unavoidable, a law of nature… Conservatives have pursued a policy of blind faith in the market – serving the interests of the few rather than the general public…” Read more