Friday, 6 February 2009

Big Election Date set for Ireland

It has been announced that Ireland will hold elections to the European Parliament on Friday the 5th of June. Polls will be open longer (7am-10pm) to try and encourage a larger turnout as turnout for EP elections traditionally decline at each poll.

What makes June the 5th a big election day (apart from the elections to the biggest multinational, directly elected institution in the world) is that elections for local government will be held too, and possibly 2 by-elections (which really should have taken place already by now). Fine Gael hopes to gain from the government's unpopularity in both polls, but I don't expect major losses for Fianna Fáil, if only because they sunk so low in the last local and European elections. More interesting will be the performance of the Green Party, the junior partner in the governing coalition. Will the Greens (who hold the Environment and Local Government Ministry) be able to avoid the voters' wrath?

Given the influx of people from the new EU member states, I wonder if they will register to vote in the EP elections, and if this will have much of an impact if they do...

It will be very interesting to see if statistics for registration levels of non-Irish EU citizens will be available. Are EU citizens in another member state than their home state more likely to vote in EP elections (and possibly be more pro-European?), or would factors such as unfamiliarity with the electoral system (EP elections don't have a unified system) and voter-candidate language difference turn them away? Or is the EP (and the EU at large) not important enough even for mobile EU workers for these questions to be relevant?

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