Elections 2009

It’s election day in Europe, but in certain respects the most important events are taking place outside the voting booths.

According to a RTE/Sunday Independent opinion poll in Ireland, supporters of the European Union’s Lisbon treaty will defeat opponents by a margin of 54 per cent to 28 per cent (with 18 per cent undecided) when the treaty is submitted to a second referendum, probably in October.  Such a thumping victory would not only reverse but for all practical purposes bury the memory of Irish voters’ rejection of the treaty in June 2008

If one trend is emerging from the early results and exit polls of the European Parliament elections, it is that ruling political parties are in for an uncomfortable night. Voters are deserting them in droves and transferring their support either to mainstream opposition parties or to protest groups and extremists.

Put another way, voters have used the elections as a chance to state their feelings about current conditions in their respective countries. There has been nothing particularly “European” about the way they have cast their ballots. 

“No European Parliament-related term has made it under the top 100 Twitter trend terms of the last week” says Julien Frisch on the Watching Europe blog, referring to the micro-blogging site used by some MEPs to drum up interest in the elections. Susan Boyle was second. (Joshua Chaffin’s take on the Parliament’s web presence in Saturday’s FT is worth a read)

As turnout continues to be the dominant theme, is the problem that European elections are not separated enough from national ones, ask the Young European Federalists? 

A few links for those pondering the European elections:

Still confused about which party best represents your views? Answer a few questions here and it will match them up against the relevant political grouping in the Parliament. 

Well, that’s a good start, isn’t it?  The Netherlands was the first of the European Union’s 27 countries to release exit polls on how its citizens voted in the European Parliament elections.  And guess what?  The Party For Freedom (PVV), a right-wing anti-immigration party led by the anti-Islamic populist Geert Wilders, is expected to finish second with more than 15 per cent of the vote and at least four of the 25 Dutch seats in the EU legislature.

In truth, people outside the Netherlands shouldn’t be surprised by the PVV’s success.  Wilders has been riding high in Dutch opinion polls for quite some time.  Back in March, one survey even suggested that his party would become the biggest party in the Dutch parliament if an immediate election were held. 

As surely as night follows day, a low turnout in this week’s European Parliament elections will be followed by the usual hand-wringing about the European Union’s “democratic deficit”.  How much longer can the EU continue as a project controlled by elites and disregarded by the masses, whose only role seems to be to wreak occasional havoc by rejecting EU treaties in referendums?  How can European political and economic integration flourish without an integrated European public opinion? 

European elections

European elections

Unemployment and economic insecurity will be uppermost in people’s minds when voters in 27 countries start going to the polls on Thursday to elect a new European parliament in the biggest multi-national election in history. 

Quentin Peel, international affairs editor, is troubled by a eurosceptic Netherlands as Europe prepares to vote. 

The closer the European Parliament elections, the sneakier the stratagems of British centre-right politicians and activists in Brussels.

As David Cameron made clear on May 18 when he launched the election campaign of his opposition Conservative party, the Tories are poised to leave the mainstream European People’s Party-European Democrats (EPP-ED) group soon after the vote.  They plan to set up a new centre-right group in the EU legislature that would be strongly opposed to more EU political and economic integration.