Thursday 4 June 2009

European Election 2009 Update

Today the UK and Netherlands have started voting in the European elections (France 24 overview here). DerStandard has complained at the lack of pro-European/moderate party passion during the elections (here - in German).

The European Greens say that the latest polls predict them (the Scottish Greens) winning a seat in Scotland, with 18% of the poll.

I haven't voted yet myself (I will after posting this), and BBC Newline has reported that there's a steady stream of voters going to the polls, even if it's a bit quiet. Turnout may or may not pick up later when more people finish work.

There has been controversy over the decision of the Netherlands to release some "preliminary results" before the elections are over in other countries - but for the NI results, they won't be counted until Monday. It's not a breach, but it's annoying that we'll vote first here, and find out last...

If you're voting in NI and haven't made your mind up yet (or want to know a bit more on the candidates' stances on some European issues) you can read the responses of 4 of the candidates to some of my questions here. Not all parties replied (4 out of 7 replied), but I did email late on in the campaign (just on Sunday, in fact).

Some members of the liberal Radical Party in Italy are on hunger strike because the media there is not giving them enough attention in the run up to the elections, despite a ruling that said that Rai (the main channel they're in dispute with) should give them equal airtime.

In the Republic of Ireland, voting doesn't officially start until tomorrow, but voting on the offshore islands takes place today (they traditionally vote a day early).

In the Dublin Euro-constituency (which votes tomorrow), the battle for the third and final seat is still a tight one, with Mary Lou McDonald (Sinn Féin/GUE-NGL), Eoin Ryan (Fianna Fáil/ELDR) and Joe Higgins (Socialist Party) close in the polls - MLM has had a slight lead in the polls lately, but there have been a few events since then.

A Fine Gael strategist has hinted that a possible Fine Gael-Sinn Féin coalition after the next general election, and Trever Sargent has claimed that FG leader Enda Kenny approached him after the last general election to sound out SF on the possibility of a rainbow coalition (FG-Labour-SF). In the Republic coalitions with SF are taboo, so naturally enough Enda Kenny has rejected these claims.

It's unclear whether or not the whole episode will have much impact on the vote at all. Former FG leader and Taoiseach (and French-speaking Europhile) Garret FitzGerald has called on people to transfer to pro-Lisbon parties in this election - which really means transferring to Fianna Fáil's Eoin Ryan in Dublin, who is facing a feirce battle to retain his seat (Dublin is down 1 seat from the last elections).

Enda Kenny has stated that Eoin Ryan's loss will be Fine Gael's gain - and both Fine Gael and Labour have unfortunately pushed the line that the elections are a referendum on the Government (a Fianna Fáil-Green coalition). It's a pity since some of the MEPs have tried to give a more pan-European flavour to the election by highlighting the European Group aspect of pan-European politics.

Irish Minister for Health Mary Harney (independent; formally Progressive Democrat) has clashed with Mary Lou McDonald over MLM's attendance record and the issue of maternity leave.

Labour's Dublin candidate De Rossa, launched a report "No Time to Waste" slamming Ireland's record on environmental protection and compliance with EU environmental law. He also took a swipe at the Greens who have been in government for 2 years now in Ireland (their first time in government here), stating that they haven't improved the government's record on the matter. Ireland apparently accounts for 6% of environmental infringement cases despite only having 1% of the EU's population. I doubt the report will have much of an impact (de Rossa is favourite to win the second seat with a healthy first preference vote predicted), but it could prevent "slippage" of voters to the three candidates fighting over the third seat, since that battle is getting more media attention.

Apparently, the Mayo News has called the third seat in the North West constituency for Declan Ganley. Why? Read here. I think that Ganley's vote could be bigger than predicted considering the size of the constituency, but I doubt he will win a seat. As for his promise not to play a leading part in a No campaign in the upcoming Lisbon Treaty referendum - well, there are other roles apart from leading ones, and Libertas could still play a role (if it can exist independent of Ganley/operate effectively without his leadership).

The Irish Examiner has written a good article on "Making the EU work for You", explaining how individuals can try to make their voices heard at different points in the EU system. Naturally one way is through your MEP, so vote to make sure you've a good one!

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