European Parl. elections start Thurs. with low expectations on participation

BRUSSELS, Between May 23 and 26, Europeans will elect the 751 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to represent them for the next five years.

The elections will officially kick off with the first votes being cast on May 23 in the UK and the Netherlands.

Voting will be held in the UK as it is still a member of the European Union (EU) and the date of its leaving the Union remains uncertain.

EP’s chief spokesman Jaume told a press conference on last Friday that, “our campaign has been very different from before. It has been an unprecedented effort to raise awareness in the election among the media and public and to urge people to vote.

“Polls show a majority of citizens think the EU is a good thing, but the challenge now is to persuade them to cast their vote, especially the young. People need to know that their votes do matter,” he said.

EP’s promotional film on the elections, he said, has now been seen by 130 million people, describing the campaign as “unprecedented for any institution in Europe.” Duch also noted that Parliament had hosted a “lively and useful debate” of candidates seeking the European Commission presidency last Wednesday.

Six candidates from the major European political families held the final debate in Brussels on May 15 explaining their positions on issues of major concern in Europe such as immigration, climate change, security and economic growth.

He said there is a huge media interest in next week’s election and so far, 1,200 journalists have registered, double the number that covered the 2014 elections.

After the elections, and taking into account the results, EU leaders will propose a candidate for President of the European Commission. It will then be up to MEPs to elect the next European Commission President and approve the whole Commission; EU’s executive body. The new EP will vote on the new Commission president in July.

EP President Antonio Tajani in his message to the voters said “we have to change Europe and make it more effective by answering citizens’ concerns and building upon what we have already achieved.” Analysts point out that turnout for EP elections is low, and hence it is easier for far-right and far-left populist parties to focus their campaigns on voters favoring extremist parties.

Close to 43 percent of Europeans believe that the rise of populist parties threatens the functioning of the EU, according to a recent YouGov survey.

The survey predicted that the two big political groups in the EP, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the Socialists (S and D), will lose seats for the first time. However, the EPP would remain the largest single group followed by the S and D, it pointed out.

Source: Kuwait News Agency