EUROPE’S remaining 20 countries will register their votes today for the European Parliament elections.
Spain, Germany, France and Poland are among the major EU member states voting today, on election ‘Super Sunday’.
The majority of the 338 million Europeans eligible to vote will cast their ballots, with the vote expected to confirm the dominance of pro-European centrists.
But there has been a dramatic rise in support for the anti-EU far-right and far-left this year.
After years of financial crisis, rising unemployment and poor growth, a great many Europeans see this as an opportunity to register a protest vote.
Opinion polls suggest that at least a quarter of seats in the parliament will go to anti-EU or protest groups, but that the majority will remain with the pro-EU parties – centre left, centre right, liberals and green.
Spain will elect a total of 54 of the 751 seats in the Parliament.
Like the UK and many other EU countries, Spain uses a ‘closed list’ voting system, where citizens vote for a party and the party assigns seats among its candidates.
But there is a great deal of apathy around the elections in Spain with turnout falling for another year, to below 50% of the population.
Now in its 25th year, participation in the European Parliament elections has fallen every year since the first direct poll was held in 1979.
Lucas Calvo, of the pro-Europe Union for Progress and Democracy (UPyD), said: “The big parties (the ruling PP and the opposition PSOE) don’t actually want everyone to vote.
“They want their hardcore voters to come to the polls and for everyone else to stay home. That’s the game they are playing. And we should be worried about this. It’s about protecting the status quo in Spain.”
The candidate pointed out that a lot of the economic development in Spain over the last two decades has been brought about by funds from Europe.
“Thanks to Europe, Spain’s young unemployed people at least have the option to look for work abroad, whether that’s to Germany or to London. Sometimes we don’t realise what Europe has done for us.”
For the first time ever this year, MEPs will have a say over who takes over from European Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso – the EU’s most powerful office holder, with the power to introduce new legislation.
Each of the main party groups in Europe has nominated a ‘Spitzenkandidat’ – German for a leading candidate – who will be their nomiee for Commission president should they win the most number of seats.
Calvo added: “We need to vote to make the changes we want, and to get the Europe we need. If we don’t vote, we are never going to have a say.”
Final results and the precise allotment of seats in parliament is expected to be announced by the end of Monday.