Elections, the “engine” is ready

400 million citizens expected at the polls from May 22 to 25. Europe decides

The elections for the renewal of the European Parliament are a democracy test, with more than 400 million eligible to vote, 40 million of whom will go the polls for the first time. 751 deputies will be elected to the Chamber in Strasbourg, which has legislative, budgetary powers and the authority of “democratic supervision” in the framework of the institutional architecture of the EU. This time, an assembly shall be elected which, thanks to the Treaty of Lisbon that came into force in 2009, has increased powers. The outcomes of May 22 to 25 will determine the choice of the new president of the Commission who will take office on 1 November. Some notes are off-key. That said, there remain some inconsistencies in those same elections which should be pointed out. In fact, each State decides by what the electoral law it selects its own representatives (various types of “proportional” representation, with or without preference vote and with or without “qualified percentages”…), the day in which the elections are held, the ballot, if voting is compulsory or not (it is in Belgium, Cyprus, Greece and Luxembourg). Among the “facts of interest”, the right to vote is acquired at 18 everywhere except in Austria where voting age starts at 16; the minimum age to be candidates instead varies from 18 to 25 years. Not only that, by voting on different days, it may be possible, that the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, the Czech Republic and Slovakia will release the results of exit polls (not the official data of the ballots), which could affect, in one way or another, the voting intentions of the citizens in other countries. A climate of uncertainty. Moreover, the 2014 elections are considered, as stated by Jaume Duch, spokesman for the EU Parliament, “more political” than previous ones, because the stakes are higher, the Parliament has a greater weight at Community level, it can affect the new Commission by choosing among the parties of reference of the five candidates that will succeed José Manuel Barroso: Jean-Claude Juncker (Luxembourg People’s Party), Martin Schulz (German Socialists and Democrats), Guy Verhofstadt (Belgium, Liberal), Ska Keller (German Greens, who also suggest the name of the French José Bové) and Alexis Tsipras (Greek, a member of the united Left coalition). Notably, elections will be held in a climate of severe economic uncertainty, with a crisis that has weighed heavily on Europeans, who have often accused the EU of being responsible for the recession, instead of understanding that over the past years in the Brussels and Strasbourg seats have been sought those answers that Member States, individually, have not been able to provide (stability of public finances and the sovereign debt crisis, supporting growth and employment, investment, research, training …). Widespread euro-criticism thus developed, that risks fuelling the success of the anti-EU parties in almost all countries. MEPS and political groups. Data on the turnout at the polls will precede the outcomes of the vote. And all States share concerns to this regard. Abstention in fact has grown exponentially since the first elections by universal suffrage in 1979 (when voted 61.9% of the citizens of the then nine Member States). Figures declined gradually to 43.0% in 2009, with 27 countries involved (which in this case included for the first time Croatia, which joined the EU only last year). And finally, will be the time of results with the allocation of seats to individual national parties and the identification of new MEPs. Once established elected representatives, the latter will be called to indicate, by June, in which political group they intend to join in the European Assembly (EPP, S & D, ALDE, Greens / EFA, ECR, Gue, EFD groups previously present), or if they prefer to stay among the so-called non-registered MEPs. Without neglecting that it is possible to initiate new groups which require at least 25 deputies elected in at least 7 different Member States. A long journey. The European calendar that follows the days of the elections is equally important. In fact, on May 27 the outgoing political Group leaders will convene in Brussels along with outgoing president Schulz, for a preliminary evaluation of the outcome of the polls. In the evening, during an informal meeting of the EU Council (that brings together 28 heads of State and government) Schulz will refer on the outcomes of the meeting. June will be dedicated to a meeting with the political Groups being formed. On June 26-27 the European Council will communicate to Parliament the candidate to the post of president of the Commission, considering the outcomes of the vote. From July 1-3 the constituting session of the new Parliament will take place in Strasburg; on July 7 it will be the turn of the constitutive meeting of all 20 parliamentary commissions. During the plenary of July 14-17 Parliament will be called to vote the president of the Commission. In September are scheduled to take place the hearings of the Commissioners-designate by individual governments. And finally, the College will be elected during the October plenary. The journey has just begun.

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