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European Parliament

Europeans go to the polls on May 23-26 to elect representatives to the 705-seat European Parliament. The EP currently has 751 MEPs (the maximum possible under Article 14(2) TEU). Following the United Kingdoms withdrawal from the EU, some of the seats now held by Members elected in the UK will be redistributed among Member States, and the overall total number of seats reduced to 705.

Elections to the European Parliament are held every five years. In May 2019 the citizens of the European Union will elect the European Parliament for the ninth time. This election is not based on uniform European election legislation but on national electoral acts. The period during which a European election must be held is determined by the electoral term and, more specifically, by the period prescribed by law.

The elections to the European Parliament (EP) will be held in all EU Member States between 23 and 26 May 2019. The precise day of elections is set by Member States; in several cases, this has yet to be confirmed formally for 2019. Election results can be published only after the polls close in the Member State whose voters are the last to vote on Sunday 26 May 2019.

As a rule, the period is the same in all members states, from a Thursday to the following Sunday, to guarantee that the various election traditions of the member states can be maintained. In most member states, elections are held on a Sunday or a public holiday like in Germany, while in Great Britain and the Netherlands, for example, polling stations are open on Thursdays.

In accordance with Article 11 (2), first sentence, of the Direct Elections Act, European elections are held in the last year of the five-year electoral term, during a period corresponding to that of the first European elections. The first European elections were held from 7 to 10 June 1979. A glance at the calendar of June 2019 reveals that the election period lasting from Thursday to Sunday would have to be from 6 to 9 June to ensure that at least one of the election dates in the member states would be within the above period.

In accordance with a decision taken by the Council of the European Union on 22 May 2018, the next European Parliament elections will be held in the period from 23 to 26 May 2019. Prior to that, the Council of the European Union had decided on 20 March 2018 to consult the European Parliament, which approved the draft Council decision by resolution of 18 April 2018. For the election year of 2019, the election dates were again brought forward by two weeks.

The ballot could be a revolution in the political map with a solid step back of democratic Christians and of social-democratic components of the EU parliament - the traditional roots of the post-war peace process in the old Continent. A populist nightmare involving politicians, media activists, intellectuals and social scholars riddling the image of a future where the founders own idea of Europe could be at stake. But is it a real picture? An official source of the Eurobarometer said a few different things: for the first time since 2007, more Europeans do not believe my voice counts in the EU, according to a survey of over 27,000 people across the continent. Yet the same poll released on July 4 to mark one year until the 2019 European Parliament election also found a warm welcome for the anti-establishment parties shaking up politics in the bloc.

The Eurobarometer survey said there is no danger for EU institutions: the survey, carried out for the European Parliament by Kantar Public, a consultancy firm, found that 48 percent of EU citizens surveyed agree that their voice counts in the EU, while 46 percent disagree and Brexit appears to have improved the pro-EU mood. Before the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU in 2016, just 37 percent of Europeans agreed that their voice counted in the EU. However, citizens felt more connected to national politics than pan-European: 63 percent of Europeans agree their voice counts at the national level, with that figure topping 90 percent in Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Two conflicting visions of Europe are on offer with centrists led by French President Emmanuel Macron and nationalist populists championed by Italy's far-right leader, Matteo Salvini. The populists have turned to former Donald Trump aide Steve Bannon for advice. US President Donald Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon wants to support European right-wing populists with his foundation "The Movement" in a bid to instigate a "right-wing populist revolt" in the run-up to the European elections. The increasing cooperation between the conservative right-wing and the far-right should be a wake-up-call for democrats, who should create a wide pro-EU alliance, from leftist Alexis Tsipras to centrist Emmanuel Macron, Syriza MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis told in an interview.

In general, few EU-wide polls for the EP-election are conducted but in some countries, pollsters conduct national polls with the specific question about the voting intention in the upcoming election.

A poll released by Germany's Bild newspaper on 09 March 2019, conducted in six countries in late February and early March, showed the far-right Europe of Nations and Freedom Group (ENF) was likely to win 67 seats in the European Parliament election in May. According to the Bild report, which surveyed more than 9,000 people, right-wing euroskeptic parties are in the lead in three of the six countries surveyed. In France, Marine Le Pen's National Rally party is likely to receive 23 percent of the vote. In Italy, Matteo Salvini's League is poised to win 33 percent of the vote. In Poland, Jaroslaw Kaczynski's Law and Justice, which is not a member of the ENF group, is on pace to secure 42 percent.

The poll showed the conservative European People's Party (EPP) shedding 43 seats, dropping to 174. Meanwhile, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats (S&P) was predicted to lose 45 seats, dropping to 141. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) is on pace to add 33 seats to hit 101, while the European Greens (EFA) may lose eight seats to reach 44, according to the poll results.

In Germany, the poll showed Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian ally, the Christian Social Union, remaining the strongest party with 29 percent. The Social Democrats and Greens are likely to win 16 and 15 percent of the vote, respectively. The far-right Alternative for Deutschland (AfD), which is not a member of the ENF group, was expected to get 12 percent of the vote while the Left Party was likely to get 9 percent.

Turnout is normally low in all 28 member states, averaging around 43%, but the continent's new kind of populist and nationalist parties hope this year will be different. Their leaders suspect high turnouts will be to their benefit as they seek to halt European integration and turn the clock back to a time, in their mind, when nation states didn't pool their sovereignty with their neighbors. According to a recent Europe-wide poll, two-thirds of all Europeans, and three-quarters of Germans, are planning to participate in the election. For populists, pocketbook issues are taking second place to national identity, and their message is rooted in anti-migrant sentiments. Europe's establishment parties, which are based more on socio-economic class politics, could buckle in this month's European Parliament elections under the challenge from populist parties, which base themselves on socio-cultural divides.

Populist parties, especially in Italy, Poland, Hungary and France, expect to make major gains in the May elections for the 750-seat parliament. In France, opinion polls are suggesting Marine Le Pen's far-right Rassemblement National is running neck-and-neck with Macron's En Marche party. Pollsters are predicting euroskeptic populists will capture a third of the European parliament's 750 seats. The populists will fall well short of the kind of parliamentary clout that would allow them to re-shape the European Union and reassert the pre-eminence of national identity, or even halt deeper integration. But it would give them the opportunity to disrupt integrationist proposals and to complicate the process of appointing a new European Commission following the elections, say analysts.

The right-wing populists promise their voters a completely different Europe, in which national states will get back rights they have supposedly lost, and the central government in Brussels will be disempowered. For the right-wing populists, on the other hand, there is only one issue: isolating Europe, putting up barriers and trying to keep migrants out.

The national-conservative prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, sees the election as a battle between the illiberal democracy he represents, and liberal democrats. The Hungarian premier has allied himself with German, French, Danish and Italian right-wing parties. He claims that liberal democrats want to "exchange" Europe's population and "Islamicize it with an influx of migrants. "We have to understand that Europe has reached a historic crossroads," Orban said in a speech on Hungary's national holiday. He declared that anyone who welcomed illegal migrants and refugees was "creating nations of mixed races. In such countries, historic traditions come to an end and a new world order emerges."

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, is the figure right-wing populists like Viktor Orban, Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, or Heinz-Christian Strache, the recently disgraced leader of the Austrian Freedom Party, love to hate. Macron has declared war on "illiberal democracy" and has called for a European "renaissance," for solidarity and compassion. Macron is proposing major reforms, and he, too, sees the election as a fateful one. "The most important battle in this election is the conflict between those who believe in Europe and those who do not," the French president said at a meeting of his party, La Republique En Marche!, a month before the election.

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