Europe Starts Process To Elects Its Parliament
The process of electing the 751 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) that represent the 28 member states of the EU and its 508 million citizens gets underway today and will conclude on Sunday – no results will be revealed until the final ballots close.
The UK is taking part in the elections today although the government still clings to the fiction that they may not need to take up their seats if the EU Withdrawal Bill is passed in time (it won’t be). The two major UK parties, the ruling Conservatives and the official opposition party, Labour, are braced to do very badly because of Brexit. Many Tory voters are predicted to vote for Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party which has no political programme or manifesto, a detail which Farage claims will be settled after the vote. This is because they are disenchanted with the lack of progress that the government has made in implementing Brexit. They will also lose the votes of supporters who want to remain in the EU (or at least have a further referendum) since their party is determined to (eventually) deliver Brexit. Labour is similarly squeezed. Although it is officially supportive of a further vote on the UK’s EU future, it also claims to wish to respect the referendum outcome in 2016; plainly it can’t do both simultaneously, so it is bleeding support in both directions, but the vast majority of its membership favours remain, leaving them in a quandary.
The main beneficiary for “floating” remain voters is the third party, the Liberal Democrats (LibDems) which is currently running second behind the Brexit Party in the polls. Other pro remain parties such as the Greens and the newly formed ChangeUK are likely to suffer from tactical voting. It was not possible for the remain-minded parties to strike an arrangement to run unified candidates.
In Scotland, the ruling SNP is staunchly pro-remain, but it also favours Scottish independence. It is appealing for the votes of the pro-remain community.
The vote in the UK will inevitably be seen as a proxy for an EU referendum, but this is an over-simplification because of the splitting of the remain vote. Farage’s original party, UKIP, has very low levels of support, having moved to the far-right. Its original base seems to have followed its former, charismatic leader, Farage, into his new (policy-free) party.
Unlike UK domestic elections, elections to the European Parliament are on a proportional representation basis. The UK has 73 MEPs.