Friday 5 June 2009

European Elections 2009: First day of polling over

The first day of voting in the European elections is over - the polls have closed in the UK and the Netherlands, with low turnout still apparent.

The Dutch turnout was around 40% according to France 24 (4/6/2009), which would be up a percentage point from 2004 - hardly spectacular. It would be interesting to know how much of the EP's voter turnout campaign was spent in the Netherlands. I doubt the campaign had much impact anywhere.

Preliminary results have started coming out of the Netherlands too - even if it turns out not to be a strict breach in the rules, it is certainly a breach in the spirit of the election rule that no results would be revealed until all countries have voted. Reports say that Geert Wilders party, the PVV, will return the second largest Dutch contingent to the EP at 4 seats, while the senior ruling party (the Christian Democratic Appeal party/EPP) will remain the largest contingent despite losses at 5 seats. The PES-aligned PvdA should get 4 seats (down from 7).

Based on preliminary results (2004 seats in brackets) [Change in square brackets]:

EPP - 5 (7) [-2]
PES - 4 (7) [-3]
ELDR - 6 (5) [+1]
European Greens - 2 (2) [0]
GUE-NGL - 2 (2) [0]
InDem - 2 (2) [0]
Non-Aligned - 4 (0) [+4]

The swing is strongest in the direction of the non-aligned PVV, with a smaller movement towards the liberal ELDR group (two Dutch parties are members of ELDR, with one losing a seat and the other gaining two, so there may be voter movement within the ELDR group parties). The PvdA, currently in coalition with the Christian Democratic Appeal) was clearly the hardest hit.

In the UK the orthodoxy is that the main parties will be hit hard due to the expenses scandal. The most interesting aspects of the votes, when they're released, will be (1) how well the minor parties did - and which ones, and (2) how well the Conservative and LibDems did compared to Labour. Turnout-wise, the Times has put it at around 30% (via Jon Worth).

EP-wise the elections in the UK will likely lead to PES losses, a UEN/EC gain (though this can only be compared to the Tory delegation to the EPP-ED group in 2004-2009 since their new splinter group won't be formed until this term) and either no change for ELDR, or a slight gain.

The UKIP result will probably depend on how well they've managed to capitalise on voter discontent compared to the BNP and the Greens. I think that their vote will remain quite stable with perhaps a small increase. UKIP have complained that their chances being damaged by how the ballots were folded.

In the meantime, we can amuse ourselves with the Council election results for England, which will probably give an indication of the European results (since both are being treated as a referendum of the government anyway). Currently the results stand at:

(Seats with [Change in square brackets])

Labour - 16 [-8]
Conservatives - 17 [+4]
Liberal Democrats - 36 [+4]
Others - 1 [0]

Though obviously hardly any vote have been counted yet and it looks like a LibDem council may have been the first one to have been counted since only the LibDems have been confirmed to have won a council (Bristol), according to the BBC's council election counter. Still, a better picture should emerge later.

In Northern Ireland, turnout is going to drop as well, from around 51.7% last time to between 38-45%. Over at Slugger O'Toole they've been gathering the turnout data from polling stations around Northern Ireland. (See here and on the backup site here).

Of course, it's not just overall turnout that will matter in NI, but what sections of the community turned out and in what strength. Turnout among middle class nationalists and unionists will boost moderate parties and there could be some cross-community transfers. Turnout among working class nationalist and unionist areas generally favours Sinn Féin/DUP/TUV, with transfers more limited to intra-community parties.

A lower turnout could help Jim Allister (TUV), who, as a party to the right of the DUP, may be able to rely on a more hardcore support base. There may also be a chance that the unionist vote is split enough for Alban Maginness (SDLP) to win the third seat, though it's likely that Jim Nicholson (UUP/Conservatives) will retain the third seat.

[Side note: Frank Schnittger has written a good article on the tribalism of NI politics on Th!nk About It here].

The balance of turnout between the communities and the general transfer trends will be poured over, but it will have to wait until Monday, when the votes will actually be counted.

Today (June 5th) voting will begin in Ireland and for the first day in the Czech Republic.


  1. Mass psychology is an interesting field, and the hijacking of the agenda for populists ends (manipulation).

    For me, following through the media, it was astounding to see how the constant barrage against Gordon Brown and his Labour government was turned into a massive push, both outside and inside Labour, to oust him.

    This captured the imagination at the final stretch - naturally without any factual connection to the tasks of local Councils or the European Parliament.

    But we still have to wait for the EP results.

  2. Actually the Dutch turn out is apparently at 36,5% lower then 5 years ago.

  3. @ Blaat

    That would be another dent to the EP's legitimacy in the Netherlands. I was only going on the France 24 number (I can't speak Dutch but I'll try more Dutch sources in the future). I suppose it will only be confirmed on Sunday - or is that the confirmed number now?

    @ Grahnlaw

    The plight of the government and the desire to give it a good kicking is certainly the issue of the elections, local or European. I think its a pity that the elections aren't used to judge the outgoing councils and MEPs on their record and to judge the proposals of the challengers - it would be a lot better for local and European democracy.

    The European elections could be more of a protest vote than the local elections, since the councils' records are likely to impact on voters' judgment more than that of the sitting MEPs.