One hundred days before the vote for the renewal of the European Parliament political discussions across EU27 intensify with the simultaneous launch of the institutional campaign inviting citizens to cast their votes. Against the backdrop of increasing political and media attention – not always positive – some political analysts predict that the voters’ turnout could be higher, following a period of low participation (from 62% to 43% in 2014; 57% in Italy). In the past 40 years the European Parliament was elected with universal suffrage and next May 23-26 one of the major expressions of participatory democracy in the world – with 373 million voters, including 23.4 million youths at their first electoral experience – will be renewed.
Dutch citizens will be the first to go to the polls on May 23, followed by citizens of all member States according to national voting procedures and electoral systems, on a proportional basis.
Italian polling stations will be the last ones open – until 11 pm on Sunday 26 May.
Some specificities of the next elections: the voting age is 18 in all Member Countries except for Austria and Malta where it is 16 and Greece, where it is 17.
The eighth legislature will be concluded in a couple of months, with the last plenary session in Strasbourg due to take place on April 18. There 200 political and legislative dossiers are yet to be completed, including the farewell to the United Kingdom, with Brexit set for 29 March. Indeed, Brexit is an unknown factor of the next EU eleciton: if London leaves the EU on the established day everything will be easier,
but if Brexit were to be postponed even British citizens could be called to elect their deputies.
“It is a hypothesis we have considered but it does not change our plans. We are preparing- said Jaume Duch, Director General of Parliament Communication – for elections in 27 Member States “that will be part of the Union from 30 March onwards.”
The institutional information campaign ahead of the May 23-26 election was launched in the seat of the Euro Chamber in Strasbourg. Duch pointed out: “these are unprecedented elections. In 2014 there was no talk of Brexit, Trump was not president of the USA, the position of Russia and Turkey was different
“in the international political scenario. Fake news was not an item of concern as it is today and the attention of news media and social media – he remarked – with regard to the EU was not as strong.“
The fear of “misinformation” and the possibility of external interferences recently led to the creation of a dedicated platform of the European Parliament tasked with preventing, correcting and debuking fake news on the EU.
The “This Time I’m Voting” communication action (https://www.thistimeimvoting.eu/) kicked off addressed to young people, associations, institutional partners, groups of citizens aware of what is at stake. The latest Eurobarometer survey shows that 41% of citizens already know the date of the European elections; 48% of a representative sample (27 thousand citizens) firmly believe that their voice “counts in Europe”, while for 68% of those surveyed – rather surprisingly – their country “benefits from EU membership.”
Parliament is thus promoting an information strategy with various initiatives
including the dissemination of opinion polls forecasting May election results (the first will be available on the morning of Monday 18 February), informative communication disseminated on news media and social media, a dedicated website focused on EU achievements in the past five-year term (https://what-europe-does-for-me.eu/en/home), a debate with the “Spitzenkandidaten” with live TV broadcast from Brussels on May 15.
In less than a week the EU Parliament will release the first election projection, along with seat distribution based on the voting intentions of citizens. Projections will mostly be based on national polls, conducted with rigorous and transparent procedures – is stated in a release – by leading opinion polling organizations and without considering the polls commissioned by political parties. Opinion polls data will be released periodically until the last plenary session of Parliament in mid-April.
A problem could arise with respect to the exit polls that Parliament will release from 8:00 pm on May 26
, In fact at that hour polling stations will still be open in some countries , including Italy, and thus there is a possibility that projections could influence – albeit in the slightest – citizens who have not yet cast their vote. The counting of votes will begin simultaneously in EU27 Member states at 11.00 pm on May 26. Only then will we know whether nationalistic or pro-European political factions prevailed – in a sort of European derby – and which of the two stances gained a majority-seat in Strasbourg.