Europeans Head to the Polls

EU parliamentary elections

This week, the European Union faces 29 different elections: 28 European Parliamentary elections at the national level, and one European Union-wide election to elect the new president of the European Commission. The national elections, held in each individual member country, will determine the layout of the European Parliament for the next five years.

The lead up to the national elections have caught international attention with the growth of extreme-right, radical, and anti-European political parties. This can be seen with the Front National in France, Ukip in Britain, Jobbik in Hungary, Syriza in Greece, and Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement in Italy to name a few. There is a real concern that these parties may lead in the polls, as frustration throughout the European Union has risen in recent years. A Eurobarometer poll finds that trust in the EU across its member states has dropped from as high as 50 percent in the fall of 2004 to 30 percent at the end of last year. Further, many feel their voice does not count at the political level. Of the more than 380 million people eligible to vote this week, it is expected that less than half will actually cast their vote.

As a means to address this distrust and create greater political engagement, the European Parliament has decided to give the voters more of a voice in the selection of the European Commission President. Previously, the selection of a Commission President was made behind closed doors, uninfluenced by the Parliamentary elections. This year, however, the President will be selected based on the results of the elections. The parties represented in Parliament have each nominated a candidate for the presidency, and have agreed to support the candidate whose party is victorious in the elections.

It’s hard to say whether the Parliament’s effort to establish greater transparency and address Europe’s “democratic deficit”, will have the desired affect. Regardless, the outcome will sure be one to watch. If you are interested in learning more about the different parties involved, or following the elections in real time, be sure to check out these resources:

Eurovision Debate provides access to videos and commentary on recent debate proceedings.

The main European Parliament website provides information on the top contenders for each party with information on key social, political, and foreign challenges facing each candidate, as well as projections for the 2014 elections. There is also a live twitter feed of current European Parliament members.

The European Union official website provides a great overview of the European elections with links to useful resources on important information to learn before Election Day.

Watch a live feed of the European Parliament election results in real time through this European Parliament website.

The Wall Street Journal provides an informative “everything you need to know” guide for the European Union Parliament election.

This Time Magazine piece provides a brief history of the European Parliamentary elections, and highlights the new changes included in this election.