29/05/2009 - D-7
A survey managed by Corinne Deloy and undertaken by Barbara Bethaeusser-Conte, Spyros Blavoukos (University of Economy, Athens), Silvia Bolgherini (Federico II University of Naples), Maartje ten Brummelaar (University of Utrecht), Jacob Christensen (University of South Denmark), Olga Gyarfasova (Institute for Public Affairs, Bratislava), Marjeta Hocevar (Faculty of Social Science, University of Ljubljana), Alenka Krasovec (Faculty of Social Science, University of Ljubljana), Stasys Kropas (University of Vilnius), Rodolphe Laffranque (University of Tartu, blog :http://estonie-au-quotidien.over-blog.com),
Damjan Lajh (Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana), Helen Levy, Mirabela Lupaescu, Fabio Machado (Ecole de français EF, Paris), Michaela Marksova, Aoife Roche, Andris Runcis (Departement for Social Sciences, University of Latvia)k, Aleksandra Saczuk (the Polish Robert Schuman Foundation in Warsaw), Aaretti Siitonen (Finnish Institute for International Affairs), Michael Sorenstam, Dominika Tomaszewska, Csilla Végh, Nele Wissmann and Shasha Zou.
Electoral Campaign in Germany
Election Date: 7th June (regional and local by-elections on the same day)
Number of MEPs to be elected: 99
National issues, notably economic and environmental, are dominating the campaign. The election on 7th June is a dry run for the general elections that will be held on 27th September next. The situation is therefore extremely different from what it was in 2004 when 8 States from Central and Eastern Europe joined the European Union, an event which heralded the end of the division of Europe which Germany suffered to its very heart.
The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) led by Chancellor Angela Merkel is defending free competition which she believes to be the base for political growth and full employment – however she is demanding better regulation of financial activities in Europe, notably those of the Central Bank. The Social Democratic Party (SPD), a member of the ruling coalition and the Greens want the European economic, social and environmental policies to be harmonized. The SPD is leading a committed campaign. "The finance sharks would vote for the FDP" (Finanzhaie würden FDP wählen) is to be read on some of the party's posters. The Liberal Democratic Party is demanding greater liberalization of the domestic market. Finally the Left Party (Die Linke), which is against the Lisbon Treaty is fighting for a more social Europe and is requesting the creation of a wealth tax. Lagging behind in the latest polls it has now been taken over by the SPD, Die Linke, which qualify the European Union as a neo-liberal motor, has toughened up its approach. Like the Greens and the SPD Die Linke support the establishment of a minimum salary in Europe to fight against social dumping. With regard to the environment the SPD and Die Linke are asking for the introduction of a minimum environmental standard whilst the CDU wants to raise citizens' awareness on these issues. The FDP believes that the liberalisation of the energy market helps to protect the environment effectively.
Tension is still great between the CDU and its Christian-Social Union (CSU) partner which are finding it increasingly difficult to find common positions. The CSU maintains that it is the best party to defend Bavarian interests in Brussels and sometimes uses Brussels as a scape-goat, it is against Turkey's membership and demands the introduction of the referendum in Germany. The CSU fears that it will not achieve the vital 5% to be represented in the European Parliament, and this is even more the case since the European elections which do not motivate the crowds is taking place during the Whitsun holidays.
The last few days have been marked on the left by the departure from Die Linke of MEP Sylvia Yvonne Kaufmann – who was a member of the European Convention – and who has now joined the SPD. The former Deputy Chair of the party accused Die Linke of having become an "assembly of sectarians". Previously she said that Die Linke's electoral programme was "a disappointing show of anti-Europeanism". The SPD hopes that others will follow her and will join the realistic left. "Those who were disappointed with the Social Democratic Party who went over to Die Linke will not come back," believes political analyst Oskar Niedermeyer.
Finally we should note that the lead candidates in the main parties – Martin Schulz for the SPD and outgoing President of the EP for the CDU – who are well known in Brussels, are still unknowns in Germany.
The latest polls credit the CDU with 37% of the vote, the SPD with 28%, the Greens with 12%, the FDP with 10% and Die Linke with 8%. The re-election of Horst Köhler (CDU) on 23rd May as President of the Federal Republic of Germany was a victory for Angela Merkel and more widely for the CDU and the FDP which showed it was ready to join forces to rule together. The left however appeared divided on this occasion.
Electoral Campaign in Austria
Election Date: 7th June
Number of MEPs to be elected: 17
Euro-scepticism is rising amongst all parties none of which, apart from the Greens, seem able to undertake a campaign based on what the European Union has given to the country. In addition to this the European election is a test for both parties in the government coalition.
The appointment of former Interior Minister, Ernst Strasser, as lead candidate of the People's Party (ÖVP) was a surprise since he retired from political life in 2004 to continue his career in the private sector and was highly critical of the European Union. Many openly suspect him of only wanting to be elected to the European Parliament so that he can negotiate better with the companies with which he works. The Social Democratic Party list (SPÖ) is led by the present Deputy Chair of the Party of European Socialists at the European Parliament, Hannes Swoboda, well known in Brussels but less so in Austria, although she is lead candidate for the third time running (1999 and 2004). The SPÖ is undertaking a campaign on employment, and pensions, two issues that fall within the competence of the national government. Finally Chancellor Werner Faymann (SPÖ) supports the re-election of José Manuel Barroso as head of the European Commission.
The Greens are against a second term in office for the outgoing President of the Commission. They are asking for a more social Europe and support the establishment of a minimum salary that corresponds to 60% of the average national salary and greater investments for the poor. One of their candidates, Maria Vassilakou, also features on the Greek Ecologist lists in this election. "We want to show that we do not acknowledge European borders," she indicated. The Ecologist list is led by Ulrike Lunacek who asserted herself by beating MEP Johannes Voggenhuber during an internal vote organized by the party (the latter, lead candidate in the previous elections in 2004 is the major absentee from the Green lists).
Just days from the election the far right seems to be gaining ground. Heinz-Christian Strache was triumphally re-elected for a third mandate as head of the Liberal Party (FPÖ). The list is led by Andreas Mölzer. To fight against the economic crisis the FPÖ believes that the country has to reduce its contribution to the EU by half (money which contributes, in its opinion, to the corruption of the elites) and is recommending a reduction in the number of Austrian embassies (down to 84) in the world. The FPÖ is asking for the nationalisation of the agricultural sector. Austrian President Heinz Fischer deemed the FPÖ's electoral posters as unacceptable since they present the West as the last bastion of Christianity. He criticized the FPÖ campaign indicating that the rhetoric employed was an infringement of "our consensus on the separation of politics and religion and on the respect of both"; Chancellor Werner Faymann accused the FPÖ of playing on anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim feelings; The ÖVP candidate Ernst Strasser stressed that the FPÖ's slogans were "almost Nazi". Heinz Christian Strache said that he believed the accusation of anti-Semitism was an insult to his party.
The Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) which adopted the name Alliance for the Future of Austria-Ewald Stadler List, hopes to attract those disappointed by the ÖVP and those frightened by the extremist position adopted by the FPÖ. "Any reunification of the Alliance for the Future of Austria and the Liberal Party is impossible, we shall try to distinguish ourselves clearly from the FPÖ," maintained the BZÖ leader Josef Bucher. Ewald Stadler is a former FPÖ member. Matthäus Thun-Hohenstein, from the ÖVP is third on the list.
The Hans-Peter Martin list, running for the second time in the European election may find it difficult to find its place but may repeat its 2004 results (14.04% of the vote) in a political landscape in which euro-scepticism has such a high profile.
According to the latest polls the ÖVP is credited with 30%, the SPÖ, 29%, the FPÖ 14%, the Hans-Peter Martin list 11%, the Greens 9% and the BZÖ 5%.
Electoral Campaign in Belgium
Election Date : 7th June (regional elections on the same day)
Number of MEPs to be elected: 22
11 Flemish communities have decided to boycott the European elections in protest against the non-scission of the constituency of Brussels-Hal-Vilvorde that includes 19 communities in Brussels and its periphery, in which some towns, officially bilingual, lie in Flanders. The Dutch speakers cannot bear the fact that the French speakers living in Flanders can vote for French speaking parties. The region of Flemish Brabant will ensure the organisation of the election in these communities.
In Wallonia the battle is between the Reform Movement (MR) and the Socialist Party (PS) which hopes to recover its status as the leading party which it lost in the general elections on 10th June 2007. European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel (MR) defined the vote in support of his party as the only useful vote to ensure change. He is quick to boast the liberal nature of Europe "without which Belgium would not be able to fund its social well-being."
"Our values are not quoted on the stock market, our work benefits everyone" – this is the PS slogan. Its leader Elio di Rupo says that the economic crisis is not so much a crisis of capitalism but rather that of liberalism "caused by those who refused regulation and the control of prices but who recommended privatization and laissez-faire." The PS has not managed to emerge from the various politico-financial scandals (embezzlement, rigged public contracts etc ...) which they have had to face since 2005. Just a few days ago the Walloon Health and Social Action Minister, Didier Donfut had to resign after La Libre Belgique revealed that he cumulated his function with private activities as an extremely well paid consultant. Although this is not an illegal act it is a political error which the PS really did not need just days before the election.
The PS's difficulties are to the benefit of the Greens of Ecolo who, according to the polls, might achieve a breakthrough on this occasion.
In Flanders everyone is expecting ground to be gained by the populists and the autonomists. The lead candidate on the Flemish Liberal and Democrats list (Open VLD), Guy Verhofstadt, has just published a book entitled "L'issue de la crise : comment l'Europe peut sauver le monde" (The end of the crisis : how Europe can save the world) in which he says that only the Union can lead the world out of the crisis. "To achieve this we need more Europe and less protectionism. Europe needs a financial regulator who would be responsible for controlling the market and setting new rules," he writes. The former Prime Minister (1999-2008), who is still the most popular political figure, advises on a clean-up of the European banking system to rid it of its toxic assets, a European investment plan representing 6% of the European GNP (i.e. double the sums mobilized by the 27 in their national recovery plans) and the creation of a European economic government, an idea that is supported by José Luis Zapatero and Nicolas Sarkozy. Guy Verhofstadt deplores the lack of European strategy and is against the re-election of the present Commission. He also maintains that he wants to sit in the European Parliament and that he is not a candidate for a Commissioner's post.
The polls credit the PS with 26.2% in Wallonia, the MR 25.8%, Ecolo 21.3%, CDH 15.8% and in Flanders the CD&V led by Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy 21.6%, Open VLD 17.2%, Vlaams Belang 16.2%, the Socialists 14.3%, the Dedecker List 11.9% and NVA 9.2%.
Electoral Campaign in Bulgaria
Election Date: 7th June
Number of MEPs to be elected: 17
13 parties and coalitions and an independent candidate Chavdar Nikolov are running.
The Coalition for Bulgaria which rallies several parties, the biggest of which is the Socialist Party (BSP) of Prime Minister Serguey Stanishev, is led by the present Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin. MEP Iliana Yotova replaced Tatiana Plougchyeva in second position on the list. Serguey Stanishev has expressed his support for the re-election of José Manuel Barroso as head of the European Commission.
Outgoing MEP Roumania Jeleva is leading the list of the main opposition party, Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) led by Boïko Borisov which includes economist Vladimir Uruchev, the leader of the party's youth movement, Iliana Ivanova and Emil Stoyanov, brother of the former President of the Republic (1997-2002) Petar Stoyanov.
The National Movement for Stability and Progress list (MNSE), a member of the present government is led by present European Commissioner for Consumer Protection Meglena Kuneva. MP Antonia Parvanova the party's spokesperson, Stanimir Ilchev and the party's only MEP Biliana Raeva occupy 2nd, 3rd and 4th place respectively on the list.
The Movement for Rights and Freedom list (MDL), a member of the present government is led by Filiz Hyusmenova.
Dimiter Stoyanov is leading the far right list Ataka which is campaigning against Turkey's membership of the Union.
The leader of the United Democratic Forces (ODS) Nadejda Mihaïlova, present Vice-President of the Bulgarian Parliament is the lead candidate on the Blue Coalition list formed by the United Democratic Forces and the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria (DSB) of former Prime Minister (1997-2001) Ivan Kostov. MEP Petya Stavreva is third on the list. 7 "small parties" including the Union of the Oppressed and the Radical Democrats joined the Blue Coalition in the European election. "The elections are the first step towards getting rid of Serguey Stanishev and Ahmed Dogan" (leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedom), declared the United Democratic Forces leader, Martin Dimitrov.
According to the latest Eurobarometer poll Bulgaria is one of the countries where voters are most interested in national issues (57% of Bulgarians express this opinion in comparison with 35% across the entire Union). In addition to this 79% of Bulgarians – ie the highest percentage in the 27 – say they will not go to vote on 7th June, convinced that their vote will not have any influence over matters.
"It would be a mistake if the campaign for the European elections was reduced to a vote for or against the government," said Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov who added, "we, the Bulgarian politicians, are guilty that the European debate has not really been taken up during the electoral campaign." Sociologist Kolio Kolev believes that there will not be a protest vote in the European elections in Bulgaria, maybe because voters are waiting until 5th July when the general elections take place to vote against the government. He believes that turnout may be higher than in the European election of 20th May 2007 notably because of the balance in the powers that are running. Two years ago only 26.68% of voters turned out to ballot; the abstention rate was mainly due to Socialist Party supporters.
Last July the European Commission froze the grant of 220 million euro for Bulgaria and suspended a loan of 500 million euros because of fraud within the "Road Infrastructures" Fund. The rightwing opposition parties accused the ruling power of poor management of the European funds. Recently the Commission accepted the release of 115 million euros as part of the European programme ISPA, that are due to be used for the construction and renovation of 10,000 km of road.
The most recent polls credit the GERB with 27%, the Socialist Party 15%, the Movement for Rights and Freedom, 8.7%, Ataka 6%, the Blue Coalition 3% and the National Movement for Stability and Progress 1%.
Electoral Campaign in Cyprus
Election Date : 6th June
Number of MEPs to be elected: 6
47 candidates are running. The main political parties – the Progressive Workers' Party (AKEL), the Democratic Assembly (DISY), the Democratic Party (DIKO), the Social Democratic Movement-Centre Union (EDEK), the European Party (Evroko) and the Greens are putting 6 candidates forward, the Movement for the Reunification of Cyprus (KEP), four and the People's National Front (ELAM), 2. Finally five people are running as independents including outgoing MEP Marios Matsakis. Mr Matsakis, who is an atypical character, was excluded from the Democratic Party in 2005 after accusations of fencing of antiques were brought against him. He is campaigning against the presence of two British military bases on Cypriot territory, Dhekelia and Akritori. Marios Matsakis also ran in the presidential election on 17th and 24th February last when he won 0.77% of the vote in the first round.
The head of the European Parliament bureau in Cyprus, Tassos Georgiu has asked voters to turn out en masse. He recalled that the Parliament's decisions in Strasbourg affected the island in terms of environment, consumer protection, energy and immigration. Tassos Georgiu said that with 6 seats Cyprus in proportion to its population had more MEPs than Germany. In his opinion Cypriots were not sufficiently informed about European institutions and for a long time believed that their country's membership of the Union would settle the issue of the island's partition overnight (Cyprus has been split by a green line since July 1974 – this is controlled by the UN Blue Berets).
The division of the island, as in the election in 2004, is the leading issue in this election. A good result on the part of the Progressive Workers' Party (AKEL) of the President of the Republic (and Prime Minister), Demetris Christofias would send a positive message for the continuation of reunification negotiations. The victory of the National Unity Party (UBP) during the elections on 19th April last (the party won 44% of the vote and clinched 26 of the 50 seats in Parliament) in the Northern part of the island and the defeat of the Republican Party led by Mehmet Talat (29% of the vote and 15 seats) does however lead to fears of a slowing in ongoing negotiations. The head of State repeats that his country's membership of the EU is a good thing for all Cypriots and he is fighting for the Progressive Workers' Party to remain the island's leading political force. AKEL has just elected a new leader, Andros Kyprianou.
Democratic Party leader Marios Garoyian was re-elected to his position in March last. But the hard wing that is requesting DIKO's withdrawal from the government coalition is gaining ground in the party. Hence Nicholas Papadopoulos, son of the former president Tasso Papadopoulos (2003-2008) who died on 12th December 2008, was elected Deputy Chairman. The issue of Cyprus's participation in the partnership for peace initiated by NATO is also a key issue in the campaign; the Democratic Party and the Democratic Rally are in favour, the Progressive Workers' Party, against.
The first polls reveal that the Progressive Workers' Party leads in terms of voting intentions.
Electoral Campaign in Denmark
Election Date : 7th June (referendum on the order of succession to the throne on the same day)
Number of MEPs to be elected: 13
No major issue has emerged in the European campaign – other than the need to limit the EU's decision making margin. The parties in the majority, like those in the opposition, do not want to see the issue of the opting out clauses, which the country benefits from, become a stake in the election.
The People's Socialist Party (SF), which hopes to enter a government led by the Social Democratic Party (SD) after the next general elections, has preferred to keep a low profile on this issue.
The Danish People's Party (DF), whose list is led by Morten Messerschmidt, is undertaking a higher profile campaign.
The Conservative Party leader (KF), former Trade Minister Bendt Bendtsen made the front page of the newspapers when he declared his opposition to Turkey's accession to the EU. The other parties in the government coalition expressed their disagreement with this position.
Likewise the leader of the Liberal Party list (V) Jens Rohde was the source of controversy when he said that in his opinion an MEP should devote more time to Danish interests within the European Parliament. Charlotte Antonsen, second on the list publicly opposed this attitude which she qualified as euro-sceptic. However Jens Rohde's opinion occupies a lot of space on the Liberal Party's site which was quickly seen as a development in the traditionally pro-European position of the party of Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen (V).
The Social Democratic Party is credited with 26.5% of the vote, the Liberal Party 22.5%, the People's Socialist Party 17.8%, the Danish People's Party 15.2% and the Conservative Party 10.2%.
Electoral Campaign in Spain
Election Date : 7th June
Number of MEPs to be elected: 50
The European elections are the first national elections to be organised in Spain since 9th March 2008 when the Spanish chose to re-elect the Socialist majority led by outgoing Prime Minister José Rodriguez Zapatero (Socialist Workers' Party PSOE).
Above all the People's Party (PP), the main opposition party, wants revenge for its two consecutive defeats in the general elections (2004 and 2008) and sees a chance in these European elections of becoming the leading national political force once more. However although it was the winner in the regional elections in Galicia on 1st March it is facing numerous corruption scandals. In addition its recent alliance with the Basque National Party (PNV) was not understood or accepted by some of its supporters. The European elections are also of primary importance for Mariano Rajoy. If the PP comes out ahead in the election he will stay in the race nationally for the position of Prime Minister. However if his party is beaten he might, after a third national defeat, be forced to downgrade his ambitions.
Spain is suffering greatly from the economic crisis at present. It entered recession at the end of 2008 and its GDP contracted by 1.9% in the first quarter in comparison with the fourth quarter of 2008. Unemployment, which is the highest in the EU, is affecting 17.36% of the working population and the budgetary deficit continues to grow. Since March 2008 José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's government, which has recently been re-shuffled, presented several economic plans in an attempt to help the Spanish manage the crisis. . He suggested allowing the unemployed, who are no longer entitled to benefit, a minimum revenue during the crisis period – a measure than only concerns some ten thousand families at present but which might benefit 300,000 if introduced. The Prime Minister bitterly criticizes some rightwing parties "the most rightwing in Europe" who together with José Maria Aznar (his predecessor was head of the Spanish government), George Bush and the neo-Conservatives precipitated the world into this crisis with economic deregulation policies.
On 16th May last the Spanish court decided to prohibit the far left list, International Initiative, led by playwright Alfonso Sastre, which was accused of having been infiltrated and controlled by Batasuna (Unity in Basque – Batasuna is the most recent name of the same nationalist coalition of Marxist-Leninist ideology to emerge after Franco's dictatorship). Five days later the Constitutional Court cancelled this ban. International Initiative appealed deeming that the ban infringed fundamental rights to participate in political life.
The latest polls indicate that the two main parties running neck and neck. The PSOE is due to win 42.8% and the PP 42.2%. The two parties are due to win 23 seats each. The Coalition for Europe is due to win 5.1%. The United Left list is due to win one seat like the European Coalition rallying several nationalist movements – Convergencia i Union de Catalunya (CiU), the Basque National Party (PNV) and the Canary Coalition, the Andalusian Party (PA), the Majorca Union, the Minorca Union and the Valencia Nationalist Bloc (BNV). But the pollsters are forecasting low turnout (45%). "We are witnessing a slow decline of what Europe represented for Spain," explains Ignacio Molina of the Royal Institute Elcano. "The introduction of the euro was the crowning point. Now that this has been done we can see that as from 2013 we will probably be net contributors to the euro budget. There is no alternative ambition. We cannot believe that Spain could be one of the five driving forces in the Union," he added.
Electoral Campaign in Estonia
Election Date: 7th June
Number of MEPs to be elected: 6
101 candidates are running. Nine parties are putting forward a list of 6 candidates: the Reform Party (ER) of Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, the Centre Party (K) of the Mayor of Tallinn Edgar Savisaar, Pro Patria Union-Res Publica (IRL), a member of the government coalition, the Greens, the Estonian People's Union (ERL), the Social Democratic Party (SDE), partner in the government coalition, the United Left Party, the Russian Party of Estonia and Libertas led by Jaan Laas (formerly with the Estonian Democratic Party). The Christian Democratic Party is putting three candidates forward and the Farmers' Assembly 2. Finally six candidates are running as independents.
The main opposition party, the Centre Party is approaching the European election from a purely national point of view. "The European Union's problems certainly weigh on Europe as a whole but they can only be settled in a subsidiary manner, i.e. each Member State as an individual. Serious changes have to be made to the management of the Estonian state. The present coalition is hesitant and does not answer vital questions. The government parties are trying to take Estonia towards Europe," reads its programme. Its leader Edgar Savisaar wants to turn the European elections into a protest vote against the three parties in the government coalition.
The government escaped a motion of censure, 53 votes against 35 on 13th May last; this was lodged by the Centre Party, the People's Union of Estonia and the Greens. According to political analyst of the University of Tallinn, Anu Toots, the initiative of censure was part of the electoral campaign on the part of the Centre Party in view of the European election. The Social Democratic Party which has been in disagreement with the Prime Minister's party with regard to the implementation of a new working contract that is to enter into force on 1st July, quit the government coalition led by Andrus Ansip mid-May. The Social Democrats were also demanding a tax raise which the Reform Party opposed. Recently the Reform Party and the Pro Patria Union-Res Publica started negotiations with the People's Union and the Greens in view of forming a new government.
From 4th to 17th May voters are being called to test the validity of their Estonian ID card (equipped with a microchip) which is vital to vote via internet. Estonia is the first and only EU member state to allow an electronic distance vote that was already tested in the local elections in 2005 and the general election in 2007. Internet voting will be allowed between 28th May and 3rd June in the European elections.
According to the latest poll the Centre Party is credited with 22%, Pro Patria Union-Res Publica 18%, the Reform Party 16% and the Social Democratic Party 15%. The surprise comes from the independent candidate Indrek Tarand who is running in fifth place with 14%. On 25th May last Indrek Tarand maintained that people supported his opposition to the "arrogance of the partitocracy" and the closed lists "with which parties treated citizens as if they were idiots". Turnout is due to be higher than that recorded in 2004 (27%) rising to 36%.
Electoral Campaign in Finland
Election Date: 7th June
Number of MEPs to be elected: 13
241 candidates, 60% of whom are men, from 13 parties are running in this election. Prime Minister Matti Vanhanent and the Centre Party (KESK) are extremely unpopular and are being criticized for their lack of perspective as shown, according to many analysts, by the appearance of Urho Kekknonen's party on the campaign posters – the latter was the Preisdent of Finland (1956-1982) – and died in 1986. The KESK hopes however to put a stop to its decline during the European election.
The Conservative Assembly (KOK), member of the government coalition has put forward a particularly sound list of candidates and has set itself the goal of retaining its position as the country's leading party and its four seats in the European Parliament.
The main opposition party, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) has been losing ground over the last few years. None its MEPs are running again. The party is putting an Orthodox Priest Mitro Repo, forward on its list (Finland has 60,500 followers of this religion in comparison with 4.3 million who adhere to the Lutheran church). The holy man has had a few disputes with his superiors for having decided to launch into politics and notably with the Social Democratic Party – recently he was excluded from the Orthodox Church. Mitro Repo, the son and grandson of a family of priests may wear his habit in the European Parliament if he is elected but he will have to take off his cross.
The far right party – the Real Finns (PS) has joined forces with the Christian Democrats in the European elections each presenting 10 candidates.
The Greens (VIHR), members of the government coalition are due to retain their seat and may even win a second.
However this European election is proving difficult for the Swedish People's Party (SFP) another partner of the Centre Party in government and for the Left Alliance (VAS).
Traditionally the Finns decide quite late on which candidates and which parties they will give their vote to. The European campaign is focused on candidates to the detriment of the parties and their programmes. Hence a poll published in the Helsingin Sanomat reveals that most voters would like to support a specific candidate, less than half want to vote for a specific party. The Centre Party is emphasizing patriotism and pragmatism: the Conservative Assembly, dynamism and professionalism; the Social Democratic Party humanist values and the Greens support to the economy and society. The Real Finns are against the Lisbon Treaty and cultural pluralism, the Swedish People's Party is defending a multicultural, cosmopolitan society. The Real Finns like the Left Alliance say they are eurosceptics and emphasis nationalism in the first instance and anti-capitalism in the second.
According to the latest polls the Conservative Assembly is due to win 23% ahead of the Social Democratic Party (18.8%).
Electoral Campaign in France
Election Date: 7th June
Number of MEPs to be elected: 72
160 lists (i.e. 8 less than in 2004) are running in the 8 French constituencies. The constituency of Ile-de-France holds the record with 27 lists. Not all are represented across the territory. Only 7 parties are presenting lists in all 8 constituencies (the Union for a Popular Movement –UMP – the Socialist Party –PS- the Democratic Movement –MoDem –Libertas formed by the Movement for France (MPF) and Hunting, Fisheries, Nature and Tradition (CPNT), Europe Ecology, Europe Democracy, Esperanto and the Independent Ecologist Alliance.
All of the government parties are running as are the far left and far right, coalitions especially formed for these European elections (Libertas, Left Front, Europe Ecology ...), and the regionalist parties (Brittany's Voice in Europe, Euskal Herriarien, Alde or Euskadi Europan) and finally totally unknown movements such as Europe – from Gibraltar to Jerusalem, The Earth or Nothing, Raw Inner Happiness etc.
The UMP, which is allied to the New Centre its government partner, may pull off an all time first in France during these European elections. Indeed all of the polls indicate that the ruling power is in the lead in voting intentions and so Nicolas Sarkozy may be the first President to assert himself in a European election in 30 years and escape the protest vote. Division on the left (whilst the UMP has barely any competition on the right), the presence of the Europe Ecology list and that of François Bayrou (MoDem) who pretends to be Nicolas Sarkozy's best opponent are a handicap to the opposition, notably to the PS.
Nicolas Sarkozy's speech in Nîmes on 5th May launched the campaign. With the slogan "When Europe wants to Europe can" the Head of State defended a Europe that protects and declared his support for the establishment of community preference. He set four vital conditions for the good running of the Union: the establishment of limits to Europe (rejection of Turkey's accession), the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, voluntarism on the part of the Union and the existence of real European debates. Just eight days before the election Nicolas Sarkozy referred again to the issues of security and immigration.
The PS is trying to politicize the debate and maintains that it is possible to establish a leftwing majority in the European Parliament. Under the leadership of Martine Aubry, for whom this is the first electoral test since she took over the party at the end of 2008, the PS is also stressing the dangers of division and says that the left of the left is not a credible alternative and is calling for a 'useful' vote - to which the more leftwing parties reply that the European election, the only proportional election organized in France, is precisely the chance for each person to express his/her opinion. The PS is playing on the notion of union: Martine Aubry and Ségolène Royal, the unlucky candidate in the presidential election in 2007, appeared in public together during a meeting on 27th May.
The MoDem and Europe Ecology are vying for third place, The two are pro-European parties but MoDem is standing as a third path between right and left whilst Europe Ecology rallies extremely diverse personalities – and even opposites with regard to European issues (supporters and adversaries of the Lisbon Treaty) to the point of clouding their visibility and coherence. Just a few days from the election Europe Ecology seems to be running out of steam but may attract centre-left voters who cannot identify with the anti-Sarkozy attitude adopted by François Bayrou likewise some pro-Europeans in the Socialist Party. The New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) led by Olivier Besancenot is treading water, a victim of its negative campaign – this is followed and may even be beaten by the Left Front which rallies the Communist Party (PCF) and the Left Party (PG) led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, believed to be less dangerous than the far left party and deemed to be the bearer of a real European alternative.
On the right the National Front is ahead of the sovereignists from the Movement for France-Hunting, Fishing, Nature and Tradition (MPF-CPNT) who have joined the Libertas list.
According to the latest poll by the Sofres and published on 28th May the UMP-New Centre is due to win 26%, the PS, 19%, MoDem 14%, Europe Ecology 11%, the Left Front 7%, the NPA and the National Front 6% each, Libertas 4% and Workers' Struggle (LO) another far left party, 2%.
Electoral Campaign in Greece
Election Date: 7th June
Number of MEPs to be elected: 22
The country has been experiencing a latent political crisis for the last few months. Until three weeks ago voters did not know whether they were going to be called to ballot to appoint their national representatives at the same time as their MEPs. Finally Costas Caramanlis' government (New Democracy, ND) did not follow the orders of the opposition, notably those from the main opposition party, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) to organize early elections. The European election is of the highest importance for both of the main parties. Defeat on the part of ND - that would be the first since 2004 - would certainly lead to a certain amount of turmoil in the hierarchy within the ruling party.
The real issue is the margin that separates PASOK from the ND. This varies between 2 and 6 points in favour of the PASOK depending on the polling institution. The "small" parties –the Communist Party (KKE), the Radical Left Coalition (SYN) and the People's Orthodox Assembly (Laos) are vying for third place. The Green Party and the recently created liberal party, the Action Party (DRASH) are also demonstrating great dynamism.
Turnout will be an important factor in this election. Three factors may cause abstention to rise: little interest on the part of the Greeks in the European election in comparison with the national elections, political disappointment with regard to the political classes in a period of successive scandals ranging from corruption to poor management of public affairs and finally the fact that the European election date coincides with the Greek Whitsun weekend (from 6th to 8th June inclusive) – many voters will undoubtedly choose to go away for the weekend rather than stay at home to vote.
The two main parties have chosen political heavy weights for their lists. The lead candidate on the ND list is Marietta Giannakou-Koutsikou, former Education Minister who has twice sat in Parliament in Strasbourg. The PASOK list leader, Giorgos Papakonstantinous is the party's spokesperson and a rising figure in Greek political life. Both of these personalities clearly show they have national ambitions and it is highly unlikely that they retain their seats in Strasbourg.
According to the latest polls PASOK is due to win 31.4%, ND 28%, the Green Party 7%, the Radical Left Coalition 6%, the Communist Party 5.5% and the People's Orthodox Assembly 5%.
Electoral Campaign in Hungary
Election Date: 7th June
Number of MEPs to be elected: 22
8 lists representing 10 political parties are running: the Young Democratic Alliance-Civic Union/Democratic Christian People's Party (Fidesz/KDNP) led by Pál Schmitt, the Socialist Party (MSZP) led by Kinga Göncz, the Free Democratic Alliance (SZDSZ) led by István Szent-Iványi, the Democratic Forum (MDF) led by Lajos Bokros, the Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik) led by Krisztina Morvai, the Communist Workers' Party (Munkáspárt) led by Gyula Thürmer, the coalition formed by Politics can be Different (LMP) and the Humanist Party (HP) led by Tímea Szabó and the Forum of Hungarian Roms Organisations-the Rom Cooperation Party (MCF), led by Zsolt Kis. The FIDESZ/KDNP, MSZP and the MDF are the only parties to put 66 candidates forward. Electoral law obliges each party that wants to put candidates forward in the European election to collate a minimum of 20,000 "recommendations".
The FIDESZ, the main opposition party to an extremely unpopular Socialist government which has just been surviving for several months, is denouncing the poor governance on the part of the leaders in power and is suggesting an alternative to put Hungary back on the "right path", to manage the economic and financial crisis better and fight against unemployment, "The whole country says: that's enough! Vote!" says is slogan. "With renewed strength !" announces the MSZP slogan which maintains that it is best suited to manage the crisis, to protect jobs and to rescue the economy. As for the MDF the campaign is mainly leaning on the two leading candidates on the list, Lajos Bokros and above all György Habsburg. The latter, a member of the illustrious Habsbourg family is standing as a representative of the traditions, values and political experience of the famous dynasty. He hopes to help Hungary benefit from the vast network of contacts he has across Europe.
"Hungary belongs to the Hungarians ! Let's let the best win at last!" (In Hungarian Jobbik means two things: the right and the best), demands the slogan put forward by the Movement for a better Hungary. The far right party led by a professor in criminal law at the University of Budapest is putting forward an anti-European, anti-NATO programme and is fighting for "the protection of Hungarian interests". On the far left the Communist Workers' Party also wants to protect Hungarian culture against "American dirt" and defends Hungarian workers, shop keepers and farmers against foreign capital. It is asking for more order, Hungary's withdrawal from NATO, and whilst demanding a new government it refuses to choose between the Socialist Party and the Young Democratic Alliance which, in its opinion, has been monopolizing the political arena for years. The coalition formed by 'Politics can be different and the Humanist Party' is fighting for sustainable development, social justice and greater democratic participation.
Finally the Forum of Hungarian Rom Organisations-Rom Cooperation Party is the only Rom party to be running in the European election. It is fighting for EU funding for programmes to improve living conditions and the education of Roms and to finance the fight against discrimination and the exclusion of Roms.
According to the latest polls, FIDESZ is due win the European election easily with 68% of the vote, far ahead of the MSZP (21%) and the Movement for a Better Hungary (5%).
Electoral Campaign in Ireland
Election Date: 5th June (local elections on the same day)
Number of MEPs to be elected : 12
According to all political analysts Fianna Fail (FF), Prime Minister Brian Cowen's party and to a lesser degree its government partner, the Greens, is due to suffer a heavy defeat during the European election. The main opposition party – Fine Gael (FG) is calling on voters to use their vote to express their opinion about the government which it accuses of having destroyed the national economy.
44 people including 11 outgoing MEPs are running. Economic issues (employment, growth, debut etc ...) feature at the heart of the campaign in a country that is suffering greatly from the economic crisis (the GDP is due to contract by 10.75% in 2009). The budget that was approved on 7th April last includes clear cuts in the budgets of many ministers, a 2% increase on wage tax (8% for some civil servants) and a reduction in retirement pensions. It should be said that unemployment that lay at 4% in August 2007 has now reached 11% (March 2009). The government has decided to participate in reducing expenditure: the number of secretaries of State has been reduced from 20 to 15, Ministers' and Secretary of States', parliamentarians' and the President of the Parliament's pay has been reduced, travel expenses have been reduced by 25% and other expenditure by 10% - the spending regime is now more transparent.
There have been some small quarrels during the campaign showing the difficulties the parties in power are experiencing. Sean O'Neachtain (FF) withdrew from the European race and was replaced by former Defence Minister, Pat Gallagher (FF). A choice on the part of Fianna Fial which Paschal Mooney another FF candidate running in the same constituency (North-West) criticized heavily; indeed the two men –Pat Gallagher and Paschal Mooney, are both from Donegal. It would have been wiser to choose a second FF candidate from Galway. In addition to this Patricia McKenna, a former Green party member decided to stand as an independent candidate. She resigned after the ecologists' decision not to leave the government coalition.
Sinn Fein (SF) and Libertas are campaigning on their rejection of the Lisbon Treaty which after having been rejected by voters on 12th June 2008 (53.4% said NO) is due to be re-submitted to referendum in Ireland in the autumn. However the weak results which the polls credit candidate Declan Ganley with show that it is not so easy to turn the Irish NO to the Lisbon Treaty into a YES for Libertas. He is demanding the time a European citizen can live and work in another EU member State be restricted to two years on condition that they are not a "burden to the State". Raymond O'Malley, the Libertas candidate in the East constituency wants to close the borders to the Member States which entered the Union in 2004 and 2007 until the level of unemployment drops in Ireland.
Because local elections are taking place on the same day as the European election the campaign issues have largely focused on local issues. Hence in the North West the management of the health services and notably those responsible for treatment against cancer comprise the heart of the electoral debate. The two by-elections that will also take place on 5th June are equally important in that victory for Fine Gael in the elections would bring Fianna Fail below the 50% threshold in the Dail Eireann (the Chamber of Representatives in the Irish Parliament). The latter would however still retain its majority.
Prime Minister Cowen popularity rating is at its lowest ebb (10% mid-May). According to the most recent polls Fine Gael is due to win 32% of the vote, Fianna Fail 25% i.e. its weakest result in decades, the Labour Party 16%, Sinn Fein (SF) 7%, the Greens 5% and Libertas 3%.
Electoral Campaign in Italy
Election Date: 6th and 7th June (provincial and local by-elections on the same day)
Number of MEPs to be elected: 72
The campaign has taken an unexpected turn over the last few days. More than ever the private life of the President of the Council, Silvio Berlusconi (People's Party for Freedom PdL) who enjoys great popularity, is the focus of the campaign and again he has made the front page of the newspapers. On several occasions the man they call the Cavaliere has repeated that he would like to turn this election into a vote of approval for himself and established the goal of rallying at least 4 million votes to his name (the preferential vote allows voters to pick certain candidates from the lists that are running). The European election is the first test for the Italian leader and for the PdL. "I am a candidate and am doing as real leaders do. It would be good for an opposition leader – if there were one – to do the same," answered Silvio Berlusconi to all of those who criticize his involvement in the campaign.
Just a few days from the election the "Noemi Letizia affair" is at the heart of the campaign. The President of the Council is accused of having travelled on 26th April last to the birthday party of this young 18 year old, an event that led to the request for divorce on the part of Berlusconi's wife Veronica Lario. The Cavaliere says in his defence that he has not had a relationship with any under-aged girls and that he is a friend of the young women's parents. The polemic with regard to Silvio Berlusconi's activities has forced the latter to be a little more discrete. He is accusing the leftwing opposition of not having ideas nor a programme and of orchestrating a scandal to damage him just days from the European and local elections in a country where his personality is the focus of attention. "I'm letting them gradually stick their necks out so that people can see how they really are. It will boomerang back on them – they will be ashamed and they will lose the voters' esteem because there is nothing that is not clean in this affair," he declared.
Silvio Berlusconi also tried to gain the upper hand over the Northern League (LN), his government ally, but his rival in the European election, by ordering the return to Libya of a ship carrying 163 immigrants that was approaching the island of Lampedusa. It was the second time immigrants had been sent back in three days. The President of the Council who spoke "against a multi-ethnic Italy" obviously does not want to abandon the security issue to the Northern League. On 13th May Parliament approved a draft law against illegal immigration which transforms any illegal entry or stay into a crime punishable by a fine totaling 10,000 euros. The toughening in security policy is creating tension within the PdL, Gianfranco Fini, former leader of the National Alliance (AN) which merged with PdL, does not support an excessively strict security policy and hopes for his part to build a more secular, open society.
For its part the Northern League has set the goal of achieving a two figure result. "We are now a popular party and the only alternative to the left which no longer exists," says Giovanni Fava, MP and campaign manager. During the last general elections the Northern League extended its electoral base winning 10% in the towns of Parma, Plaisance, Ferrare and Prato. Matteo Salvini (LN) was the source of polemic when he suggested that in public transport seats should be reserved for "real Italians".
The opposition's voice has been somewhat muffled by the agitation around Silvio Berlusconi. The Democratic Party leader (PD), the main leftwing opponent, Dario Franceschini has no other choice but to position himself with regard to the Noemi Letizia affair and asked the Cavaliere to explain himself. The European issues, which were already low profile in the campaign, have now completely disappeared. As Mr Berlusconi wanted - even if it is not exactly as he had planned it - the election is entirely devoted to his person.
In all 79 parties are running.
The PdL is credited with 38.5%, the Democratic Party 26.2%, the Northern League 9.6%, Italy of Values (IdV) led by Antonio di Pietro 6.1% and the Christian Democratic Union and Centre, whose list is led by Prince Emmanuel Philibert, heir of the Italian royal family in the North West constituency is due to win 5.5% of the vote.
Electoral Campaign in Latvia
Election Date: 6th June (local elections on the same day)
Number of MEPs to be elected: 8
Just a few days from the election the Latvians seem to be taking greater interest in the local elections that will be taking place on the same day. On walking through the streets of Riga, reading the newspapers and listening to debates it is difficult to see whether two elections are taking place on 6th June. The electoral campaign is still extremely discrete except for that undertaken by Ainras Slesers who presents his daily Russian language newspaper and is running for the seat of Mayor of Riga. "Latvians could boycott the ballot boxes," said social psychology professor at the University of Latvia, Ivars Austers who adds "that abstention is a type of protest."
17 parties are running in the European election. The New Era list (JL) led by Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš is ahead in voting intentions (12.5% of the vote). The Harmony Centre (SC) led by former journalist of the First Baltic Channel, Nils Usakovs, whose list is led by Alfred Rubiks might however pull ahead (13.7% of the vote). As in 2004 the Russian speaking parties which are defending both the granting of Latvian nationality to all people living in the country and who are running as representatives of all Russian speakers in Europe, are due to achieve an honourable result. Tatjana Ždanoka, lead candidate on the list "For Human Rights in a United Latvia" (PCTVL), is campaigning with the slogan "Our voice in Brussels".
For the first time in the country the European lists include a candidate from another EU Member State: Giulietto Chiesa who features on the Russian-speaking list 'For Human Rights in a United Latvia."
The European elections will be the chance for the parties to gauge their influence since political analysts maintain that although Latvians will turn out to vote for the "small parties" in the local elections they will choose the "big" parties in the European election.
Electoral Campaign in Lithuania
Election Date: 7th June
Number of MEPs to be elected: 12
15 political parties are running: the People's National Revival Party, the Front Party, For Order and Justice (TT), led by former President Rolandas Paksas, the Social Democratic Party (LSP) led by Vikija Blinkeviciute, the Samogitiens Party, the Centre Party, the Liberal Movement, Polish Electoral Action (LLRA), the Civic Democracy Party, the Christian Social Conservative Union, Homeland Union-Conservatives (TS-LK) of Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, Labour Party (DP) led by Viktor Uspaskich, the Nation Party-Lithuania's Way, the Liberal Union-Centre Union (LLC-LSC) and finally the Popular Peasants' Party (LVLS).
Amongst these only five or six can however hope to win seats in the Parliament in Strasbourg and only three or four outgoing MEP's can expect to be re-elected.
All of the political parties say they support a powerful Europe and are asking for strong European institutions, expressing their support for the Lisbon Treaty and the enhancement of European security and energy policies. All support the future enlargements of the Union whether these imply Croatia, the Ukraine and even Turkey whose accession is viewed by Lithuanian political leaders as beneficial.
The campaign started late due to the presidential election which took place on 17th May last. Former European Commissioner for the Budget and Financial Planning, Dalia Grybauskaite, who was running as an independent candidate, was elected in the first round with an easy lead over her adversaries (69.04%) thereby becoming the first woman elected as head of State.
The candidate's personality more than the programme of his/her party is the vital criteria in the voters' opinion: half (50%) quote this as the first thing on which they vote and 38% speak of the candidate's reputation (respectively 30% and 17% on average in the European Union). Political positions adopted by the lists are quoted by 11% of Lithuanians (against 30% on average in the 27). We also note that on the occasion of this election there is a clear trend on the part of the political parties to consider the mandate of an MEP as a kind of (gentle) retirement from national political life.
According to the latest polls the Homeland Union-Conservatives (TS-LK) at present in power are due to win the European election with 28.2% ahead of the Social Democratic Party which is due to win 10.2% of the vote.
Electoral Campaign in Luxembourg
Election Date: 7th June (general elections on the same day)
Number of MEPs to be elected: 6
For the first time the lists have been reduced to six candidates and the parties have given up presenting dual candidates. Therefore candidates can no longer stand for the national general elections which in Luxembourg take place on the same day as the European election, and in the European elections in the hope of winning votes for their party because of their reputation.
The fight against unemployment and the European policy for employment comprise the main issues at stake in the European elections for 45% of Luxembourgers. This is followed by social issues for 37% of the electorate, environment for 36% and the fight against crime 31%.
The Christian Social Party (PCS/CVS) of Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, the present chair of the Eurogroup, a monthly, informal meeting of Finance ministers from the sixteen states in the euro area, is fighting for an innovative Europe for the citizens. He is asking for the establishment of a guaranteed minimum salary in the EU. In addition to this the MEP Astrid Lulling (an MEP in Strasbourg for the last 20 years) maintains that the departure of the British Conservative Party and the Czech Civic Democratic Party (ODS) will help to make the European People's Party (EPP) which the Christian Social Party belongs to more coherent.
The Democratic Party (DP/DP) also supports the establishment of a minimum social salary likewise guaranteed minimum revenue. It is fighting for the protection and the promotion of public freedom in the Union and is asking for national contributions to be tripled for the running of the European Court of Human Rights. The Socialist Workers' Party (POSL/LSAP) which is demanding the establishment of a common pillar for harmonized social rights, is against the introduction of a single salary and privileges a social salary, since the differences in living standards, productiveness and salaries in the Union, make the introduction of a single salary and uniform social services an impossible task. According to a recent poll the lead candidate, Robert Goebbels, is the favourite MEP amongst his fellow countrymen.
Action for Democracy and Justice for Pensions (ADR) is supporting the introduction of minimum social revenues and standards in the ilk of the financial standards adopted for the introduction of the euro. The party wants Luxembourg companies to be protected against foreign competition which undertake social dumping to win markets. Finally against Turkey's accession to the EU, it hopes that any future enlargements will be submitted to referendum.
Dei Greng/The Greens are fighting for a Europe of social rights, an increase in investments in renewable energies, a reduction in the power of industrial lobbies and free internet. Finally, Dei Lenk/The Left (DL) wants to do away with free competition included in the EU treaties.
According to a TNS-ILReS poll published in the Luxembourger Wort nearly three voters in ten say they want to vote for the Christian Democratic Party (29%) in these elections, 17% support a social-democratic party, 12% an ecologist party and 9% a liberal party. Nearly three voters in ten still have not made up their minds (29%).
According to a poll TNS ILReS, published in the Tageblatt on 6th May last three quarters of Luxembourgers (73%) say they will vote to appoint their European representatives even if it is not obligatory to vote. Those close to the Christian Social Party are the most motivated: 80% say they will vote. According to some analysts the absence of Jean-Claude Juncker from the Christian Social Party list may handicap the party which might lose one of its three seats. This might go to the Socialist Workers' Party or the Dei Greng/The Greens.
Electoral Campaign in Malta
Election Date: 6th June (local by-elections on the same day)
Number of MEPs to be elected: 5
33 people and 9 political movements are running. The Labour Party (MLP), the main opposition party is presenting 12 candidates (including three outgoing MEPs) and the Nationalist Party (PN) in power has 10 candidates (including two outgoing MEPs). The archipelago has not been spared the trend that pushes national issues to the fore in the European campaign.
The Labour Party is criticizing the management of the economic crisis by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi (PN) and is calling for a change in government.
The Nationalist Party which is campaigning with the slogan "Together we shall give you work" presented a 50 point programme based on the party's four mainstays: employment, solidarity, environment and values. The Head of government accuses the Labour Party of hiding its candidates and of being ashamed of them. He also spoke of his doubts about the Labour Party's ability to work in the European Parliament on major questions such as employment, the environment and immigration.
Josie Muscat, leader of National Action (AN) a far-right populist party created on 9th June 2007 criticised the lack of transparency in the running of the European Parliament, the lack of visibility of the political trends operating within it and the slowness in the Union's decision making process.
Finally Democratic Alternative (AD) is defending the introduction of divorce into Malta and the extension of the length of maternity leave.
According to the most recent poll the Labour Party is due to win 52.5%, the Nationalist Party 39.7%, Democratic Alternative 5.4% and National Action 2.4%.
Electoral Campaign in the Netherlands
Election Date: 4th June
Number of MEPs to be elected: 25
17 parties are running. The enlargement of the Union is one of the main themes in the campaign.
The Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende is against any further enlargement within the next five years (except for Croatia whose membership process has already started) and privileges a better integration of the present Member States and the enhancement of certain European policies, notably the fight against corruption.
The People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) is against Croatia's accession before 2014.
The Labour Party (PVdA), member of the present government coalition is demanding the signature of a new European treaty before any other countries join the 27.
The Democrats 66 (D 66) and the Green Left (GL) are the only ones which support the enlargement of the EU. The political parties are trying to win over voters who are mostly reticent about any further enlargement; they fear that the latter, charmed into making a protest vote, will turn to Geert Wilder's Freedom Party (PvdV) who is running last on his party's list in the European elections.
Europe's influence is the second dominant issue in the campaign. The populist parties such as the Freedom Party and the Socialist Party (SP) are denouncing Brussels' increasing influence over national politics, an opinion which is not shared by the other parties. Finally the Freedom Party is highlighting the need to say "no" to Turkey whilst other parties support its accession and continued negotiations with Ankara. The two main parties in the government coalition are due to fall victim to a protest vote and lose seats. The main unknown in this election is the result the Freedom Party will achieve – ahead in voting intentions and ahead of the Christian Democratic Appeal and the Labour Party. "It is the only one to position itself in such an extreme manner against Europe and is turning the election into a plebiscite. With this it will emerge the winner," says political scientist André Krouwel.
Electoral Campaign in Poland
Election Date: 7th June
Number of MEPs to be elected: 50
1, 306 candidates, 77% of whom are men, on 13 different lists (including 10 which are in each of the 13 constituencies) are running.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk's Civic Platform (PO) launched his campaign with the slogan 'Bet on Poland' (Postaw na Polske). The party wants to enhance Poland's voice within the EPP (European People's Party) –of which it is a member. After the departures of the Czech Civic Party (ODS) and the British Conservative Party, the PO may turn the Polish delegation into one of the most important within the EPP. The PO is fighting for Jerzy Buzek, MP and former Prime Minister (1997-2001) to become the next President of the European Parliament. "Eurobuzek, if you go to vote, he will be the face of Europe", maintain the party's electoral posters.
In spite of the differences between the two main Polish parties (PO and Law and Justice PiS, party of President Lech Kaczynski) and the verbal aggressiveness that embodies their confrontations the tone remained reasonable during a major debate between Jerzy Buzek and his adversary Marek Migalski (PiS). According to a poll by CBOS, published in the daily Gazeta Wyborcza two thirds of Poles (65%) are prepared to vote for the PO candidate if Poland was a single constituency.
The PO is almost the only party to speak of Europe, since the campaign for the European elections has taken on a national tone. The PiS is against Donald Tusk's government and criticizes it for its management of the economic crisis; it is quick to point to the present conflict between the PO and the union Solidarnosc, with regard to the closure of the shipyard in Gdansk.
"Energy for Warsaw" (Energia dla Warszawy), this is the slogan of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) whose list is led in the capital by Wojciech Olejniczak, who explains that in Poland a great amount of positive energy is wasted in the battle between the PO and the PiS. "Europe is about people" (Europa to ludze) announces Entente for the future of the Centre Left. Its leader Dariusz Rosati speaks of the worsening political situation in Poland maintaining that "instead of thinking of the country's development the two main parties prefer to drag each other through the dirt."
Former President and historical leader of the union Solidarnosc, Lech Walesa appeared on May 1st in Rome and 14th May in Madrid in the company of Libertas leader Declan Ganley. His presence caused polemic in Poland and is a problem for the PO which Lech Walesa is supporting in the European election. "I support the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty" maintains Lech Walesa who say however that he wanted to help build a Europe of values, by speaking to everyone. Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorskia, said that the presence of Lech Walesa in the company of Declan Ganley was detrimental to Poland's position and former President Aleksander Kwaśniewski, said that Lech Walesa had made a mistake. The former leader of Solidarnosc did not help calm the polemic by revealing that he had been paid a considerable sum to appear in the Libertas leader's company.
According to the most recent poll by PBS for the daily Gazeta Wyborcza, the PO is due to win 47% of the vote, the PiS 25%, the Democratic Left Alliance, 9%. Self-Defence-Samoobrona, a leftwing populist party 3%, the Libertas list and the Polish Labour Party (PPP) 2% each.
Electoral Campaign in Portugal
Election Date: 7th June
Number of MEPs to be elected: 22
The campaign is not very lively in Portugal where 13 lists (12 parties and one party coalition) are running. This election is a test in view of the general and local elections next autumn.
The Socialist Party (PS) in power, led by Vital Moreira and whose slogan is "New Possibilities for Europe" has focused its campaign on the recovery of the economy, the prevention of financial crises and the establishment of a social Europe. The main opposition party the Social Democratic Party (PSD) led by Paulo Rangel wants to enhance the Union's economic and social cohesion and is fighting for greater security, justice and freedom and a Europe for its citizens. Nuno Melo is the lead candidate on the People's Party list (CDS/PP), Miguel Portas is running for the Left Bloc (BE) whose slogan is "a confident left, a courageous Europe," and Ilda Figueiredo is running for the Communist Party (CDU).
Just a few months from the general elections national issues are taking up most of the debate. Paulo Rangel has called on the Portuguese to "give a clear sign of resistance and spirit to the government which is neglectful and incompetent." Vital Moreira is accusing the other parties of having "phantom lists" in which only the lead candidates are well known. A scandal over the campaign budgets irrupted over the last few days. The 13 lists have to share 8.2 million €. The Social Democratic Party has spent the most to date (2.2 million). Its lead candidate Paulo Rangel has accused the other parties of minimizing their campaign expenses. President Hannibal Cavaco Silva launched an appeal to the political parties asking them address major issues during the debates in the electoral campaign.
Prime Minister José Socrates (PS) and the head of the Spanish government José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero called on 23rd May during joint meetings in Valencia (Spain) and Coimbra (Portugal) for the electorate in their countries to vote in the European elections. "We must vote because voting for the Socialists in Spain and Portugal is a vote for change in Europe," declared José Socrates adding that the European elections were "a chance for change similar to that experienced by the USA with the election of Barack Obama."
According the most recent polls by Eurosondagem the Socialist Party is due to win with 34.3% of the vote ahead of the Social Democratic party (32.1%). The Left Bloc is due to take third place with 10.1% of the vote, the Communist Party 8.9% and the People's Party, 6.9%.
Electoral Campaign in the Czech Republic
Election Date: 5th June (pm) and 6th June (am)
Number of MEPs to be elected: 22
The campaign is summarized by a duel between the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and the Social Democratic Party (CSSD). The proximity of general elections planned for the autumn is leading the political parties to use the European elections as a warm-up for the next national electoral date.
Mirek Topolanek's Party (ODS) is asking for "solutions", Jiri Paroubek (CSSD) is asking the Czechs to prevent the return of the ODS to power. He is campaigning on two national issues. Hence he maintains that if he returns to power the CSSD will re-introduce allocations for children (the ODS abolished these for some families) and will prohibit an employer from dismissing a worker unless it is justified, a measure which also features in the ODS programme.
Apart from the two "main" parties the Christian Democratic Union/People's Party (KDU-CSL) is attempting to make a different voice heard with the slogan Veci verejne (Choose the third way). But it is the far right which is making itself heard. Hence the National Party (NP) has caused a uproar by suggesting in its campaign video broadcast on TV channels, a "final solution to settle the Rom problem". The audiovisual authorities decided to ban the film and to stop broadcasting it. The National Party leader has denounced this measure as being anti-constitutional and is threatening to have the European election cancelled. The Prime Minister Jan Fischer declared on 20th May last that he wanted to have the NP banned since he considers it close to being Neonazi, a request which the Czech justice initially rejected. The Workers' Party has also made the Roms the major issue of its campaign and has witnessed the prohibition of two of its films. Finally and still on the far right we witness the return of the Republic Assembly-Czech Republican Party (SPR-RSC) led by Miroslav Sladek, a far right leader who withdrew from political life in 2000. He is asking for the dissolution of the European Parliament and the Czech Republic's withdrawal from the EU and from NATO.
According to the latest poll by STEM, the CSSD is due to win the European election with 24.2% of the vote, followed by the ODS20.9%. The Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) is due to win 13.5%, the Christian Democratic Union/People's Party 5.5% and the Greens 5%.
Electoral Campaign in Romania
Election Date:7th June
Number of MEPs to be elected: 33
The official campaign started on 7th May. The National Liberal Party (PNL) chose the town of Brasov to present its list. Its chairman Crin Antonescu took the opportunity to motivate his supporters in the presidential election that will take place on 28th November and 12th December next, going as far as declaring during the European electoral campaign: "I am the alternative to two faces of evil, Traian Basescu (present president and the Democratic Liberal Party's PDL candidate) and Mircea Geoana (candidate of the Social Democratic Party PSD)", alluding to his two probable adversaries next autumn. The National Liberal Party chose the slogan "We defend our interests in Europe" for its European campaign.
The Democratic Liberal Party launched its campaign on 9th May last, on Europe Day which enabled Head of State Traian Basescu to be present at the event and to make a speech. The Social Democratic Party presented its list on 14th May in Bucharest. Although Mircea Geoana has not announced that he will run in the Presidential election he has however been quick to attack the Democratic Liberal Party in power together with President Basescu. The Social Democrats slogan in the European election "Choose well" echoes that of the Justice and Truth Alliance (DA) from which the Democratic Liberal Party emerged during the general and presidential elections on 28th November and 12th December 2004: "Live well".
The Democratic Union of Magyars of Romania (UDMR) is campaigning under the slogan of "A Hungarian Alliance" whilst the Greater Romania Party (PRM) led by Corneliu Vadim Tudor, which has not been represented in Parliament since the general elections on 30th November 2008 is putting all of its energy into Gigi Becali, a popular businessman and the owner of the football club of Steaua Bucharest, who turned to politics (he did however announce his withdrawal from political life after the general elections of November 2008), to win seats in Strasbourg. The fight against corruption is the central theme of the far right as seen in the slogans "Two Christians and Patriots (Corneliu Vadim Tudor and Gigi Becali) will save the country from thieves!", "Greater Romania in a United Europe" and "What have you done to the country? You run the risk of going to prison!".
The fight against corruption was also the heart of a scandal between the Democratic Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party. The presence of the former (2004-2007) Justice Minister known for her action against corruption and her reform of the legal system, Monica Macovei on the PDL lists was the source of criticism on the part of the Social Democrats who accused her of lacking patriotism and being under Brussels' thumb.
Finally Elena Basescu, daughter of the President of the Republic, who has a high profile in the Romanian media is running. The 29 year old who sometimes works as a model is known for her presence at jet set parties in Bucharest and is running as an independent.
The electoral campaign is dominated by national issues (unemployment, pensions, economic crises, the future of the social system) which prevail over European subjects over which the political parties differ very slightly. The transfer over to the euro (planned for in 2014), joining the Schengen area and the use of community funds find consensus within the political classes. The slight importance political parties grant to the European election can also be seen in the budgets they dedicate to it. Whilst the parties are allowed to spend up to 10 million euros not more than one million will be allocated by the three main parties (PNL, PDL, PSD) to their campaign.
The Social Democratic Party and the Democratic Liberal Party are running neck and neck (30.9% and 30.8% of the vote respectively) in the most recent poll by Insomar. The National Liberal Party is due to win 18%, the Democratic Union of Magyars of Romania, 7.9% and the Greater Romania Party 6.2%.
Electoral Campaign in the UK
Election Date : 4th June (local by -elections on the same day)
Number of MEPs to be elected: 72
The political atmosphere could hardly be worse than it is right now as the European election is launched both for the ruling Labour Party and also for the politicians in the three main British political parties (the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats). A worn-out government, the worst recession the country has experienced since 1945 and a political world marred by several scandals. All eyes are on Prime Minister Gordon Brown and every step he takes is being watched with people wondering when he will announce the date of the upcoming general elections.
Just a few weeks ago the press revealed that MPs (Labour and Conservative) had spent considerable sums of money by means of expense chits for their own personal ends. Andrew McKay, David Cameron's right-hand man resigned; Transport Minister Geoff Hoon and the Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling are the focus of police investigations. Twelve MPs, both Labour and Conservative, announced they were ending their political careers. On 19th May the Speaker in the House of Commons, the Lower Chamber in the British Parliament, Michael Martin, was also forced to resign. Finally on the same day two members of the House of Lords, the Upper Chamber, were suspended after having been found guilty of bribery, an unprecedented decision that has not been witnessed in three centuries.
The two main British political parties are undertaking a discrete campaign in these European elections – their internet sites give little information and make little mention of the electoral stakes. The Liberal Democrats whose slogan is "Strong together, poorer apart" are the only ones to defend firmly the UK's interest in belonging to the EU. The party's internet site puts forward a number of debates on various themes (unemployment, housing, companies etc ...).
The eurosceptic and anti-establishment parties therefore have a wide margin to win the votes of the discontented and are vying against each other to win over angry voters. The British National Party (BNP) is quick to qualify its campaign as the "Battle of Britain" (referring to the Battle of Britain in 1941 against the Nazi forces). The BNP, whose members are predominantly white, is gaining ground in popular areas. Its leader Nick Griffin, running himself in the North-West constituency, maintains that the European nationalists could win up to 25 seats in Strasbourg (from at least 7 different Member States) and therefore be in a position to form a parliamentary group. With this in view the British leader has drawn closer to nationalist parties in Hungary (Movement for a Better Hungary, Jobbik), Slovakia (the Slovakian National Party, SNS) Romania (the Greater Romania Party PRM), Bulgaria (Ataka). The BNP has also doubled its electoral budget in comparison with 2004. This now stands at £560,000 i.e. 625,000 €.
The UK Independence Party (UKIP) is calling on the British to say NO to the £40 million per day the party says taxpayers have to pay to belong to the EU. Its leader Nigel Farrage is requesting the UK's withdrawal from the EU.
A great deal will depend on turnout. In 2004 it was higher than in the previous elections in 1999 notably due to the organization of local by-elections in the West Midlands and the North on the same day and the implementation of the postal vote in four of the country's regions. According to the latest poll by YouGov the Conservatives are due to win 30%, Labour, 24%, the LibDems, 18%, UKIP, 10% and the Greens, 9%.
Electoral Campaign in Slovakia
Election Date : 6th June
Number of MEPs to be elected: 13
17 parties are running. They have a higher profile than in the electoral campaign of 2004. Turnout is indeed the Slovakian politicians' nightmare (in 2004 Slovakia had the highest abstention rate: 83%). However analysts have serious doubts about turnout and pollster are forecasting low figures. The political parties are being criticized for their lack of European commitment when there are no elections – their work is insufficient to motivate the electorate and provide real reasons to go to ballot. All of the parties are using Slovakia in their electoral slogans: a strong Slovakia, demands the Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU), our dear Slovakia is also put forward by the Slovakian National Party (SNS). The Greens are the only ones not to draw on national feeling. The main party in the government coalition Direction (SMER), Prime Minister Robert Fico's party also systematically uses the economic crisis.
Libertas will not be taking part in the election in Slovakia. During a visit to Bratislava on 15th May last the movement's leader Declan Ganley did however announce an alliance between the Democratic Conservatives of Slovakia (KDS) and the Civic Conservative Party (OKS) for the European elections. The list comprises two parties and is supported by Libertas. It is led by Vladimir Palko, Home Minister from 2002 and 2006 and presently an MP. Frantisek Miklosko, who holds the record for his longevity in the National Council of the Republic, the only Chamber in the Slovakian Parliament, is also on the list. Frantisek Miklosko ran in the presidential election on 21st March and 4th April last. With the support of the Democratic Conservatives of Slovakia (KDS) he came third in the first round winning 5.41% of the vote.
According to the most recent poll, Direction, whose list is led by Boris Zala is due to win 41.6% of the vote, ahead of the Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU), 17.8%, the Slovakian National Party (SNS) 9,7%, the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) 8.5%, the Christian Democratic Party (KDH) 8% and the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (LU-HZDS) 4.2%.
Electoral Campaign in Slovenia
Election Date : 7th June
Number of MEPs to be elected: 7
11 parties and an independent list (the list for patients' rights is putting four candidates) are running i.e. one less than during the previous election 2004. 42 men and 39 women are candidates; one woman is lead candidate.
Most of the members on the lists of the 7 parliamentary parties are made up of personalities known to the public: present or former ministers (three former Foreign Ministers are lead candidates), former or present MEPs. According to all the polls voters prefer the candidate's personality rather than the party the latter belongs to or the programme he/she is defending.
The international economic crisis, the enlargement of the EU to the Balkans, the cost and work of an MEP, the protection of the European social model (notably the retirement system) and cultural diversity are the main themes in the electoral campaign. Another issue specific to Slovenia: the question of the border with Croatia. The dispute between the two countries led to Ljublana's blockade of Zagreb's accession negotiations to the EU. The defences of national interests (i.e. the country's border, the healthcare system, education etc ...) are also priorities in the election in Slovenia.
According to the latest polls published by the daily Delo, the Democratic Party (SDS), led by Education Minister Milan Zver, is due to win 20% of the vote, the Social Democratic Party (SD) at present in power and whose list is led by Zoran Thaler and who chose the slogan "The People First" 15%, Zares (Real) 11%, New Slovenia (NSi), the only party that is not represented in the National Parliament 10% and the Democratic Liberal Party 9%.
The Electoral Campaign in Sweden
Election Date: 7th June
Number of MEPs to be elected: 18
24 political parties are running. Three major issues emerge in the campaign: the economic crisis, environmental issues, the fight against organised crime. However during a TV debate organized on 17th May last that rallied four parties from the government coalition – the Moderate Assembly (M); the Centre Party (C); the People's Party-Liberals (FpL) and the Christian Democratic Party (KD) – and the three main opposition parties – the Social Democratic Party (SAP); the Environment Party-the Greens (MP) and the Left Party (MP) and the Left Party (Vp) – discussions mainly focused on national issues. The upcoming general elections are planned for September 2010.
According to the latest poll by Synovate the seven parties represented in the Swedish Parliament are due to win 91.1% of the vote including 45.7% for the right and 45.4% for the left. The Social Democratic Party led by Marita Ulvskog, is due to win with 30.3% ahead of the Moderate Assembly led by Gunnar Hökmark, is due to win 26.3%. These would be followed by the Environment Party-The Greens led by Carl Schlyter, with 9.1%, the People's Party-the Liberals, led by Marit Paulsen, 9%, the Left Party, 6%, the Centre Party led by Lena Ek, 5.7% and the Christian Democratic Party led by Ella Bohlin 4.7%.
Amongst the parties that are not represented in Parliament the Pirate Party has made a breakthrough and is forecast to win 5.4% of the vote, ie above the minimum threshold to be represented in the European Parliament. Created in 2006 by Roick Falkvinge the party is fighting for "free internet access in an open society" and hopes to attract young voters who are uninterested by politics and who are not motivated by the European elections but furious at the conviction of the four managers of a file exchange internet site, The Pirate Bay; on 17th April last they were sentenced to one year in prison after they had been accused of illegally downloading files. The list is led by Christian Engström.
It is interesting to see that the eurosceptic party The June List that won 14.4% of the vote in 2004 and which became the third party in the European election in Sweden is clearly declining, credited with only 2.2% of the vote.
However further information in this poll just a few days before the election is that 45% of Swedes do not know that there will be European elections on 7th June and more than half of those interviewed (52%) did not know whether they were going to vote at all nor for whom they would vote. "The result will depend on the means the political parties employ to motivate their supporters to turn out to vote," said Nicklas Källebring, an analyst at the Synovate Institute.