BONN On Sunday, voters in Germany will go to the polls to elect their representatives for the European Parliament. Some other countries have already voted. Here is the most important information about the election and why it should interest you.
When will the 2019 European elections take place?
The European elections are held every five years, most recently in 2014. In 2019, voting takes place from May 23 to 26. Voters in the Netherlands and Great Britain already went to the polls on Thursday, May 23. In Germany, voting will take place on Sunday, May 26. At that time, all eligible voters who have not yet voted (for example by absentee ballot) will be able to cast their vote at the polling station in their area.
The reason that the voting takes place on different days is due to the different voting habits in the member states of the European Union. In Germany, for example, elections traditionally take place on Sundays. The Dutch normally vote on Wednesdays, this time they had to vote on a Thursday. And Thursday is the traditional election day in Great Britain.
Wait a minute - the British? Are they still allowed to participate?
Yes. The fact that the Brexit, the British withdrawal from the European Union has been postponed means that the British are taking part in the European elections. It is expected that the European elections in Great Britain will reflect the opinion on the Brexit.
What or who exactly will be elected in the European elections?
The European elections determine the composition of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, i.e. which parties are represented in the European Parliament and to what extent, and which members sit in Parliament for these parties. In the European elections in 2019, a total of 96 MPs will be elected in Germany. There are currently nine parliamentary fractions in the EU Parliament.
And why should I be interested?
Because these Members of the European Parliament represent the interests of citizens in the EU, across borders. Together with the European Commission and the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament enacts laws that normally apply to the entire European Union. As well, the Parliament may oblige member states to make regulations. It also elects the President of the EU Commission.
Who can vote in the European elections?
Around 400 million EU citizens are eligible to vote in the 2019 European elections. With the exception of Austria, where voting is allowed from the age of 16, all member states allow voters who are EU citizens and at least 18 years old to vote. In Germany, you must be listed on the electoral roll and have lived here for at least three months.
Is the election the same in all EU countries?
No. Because all 28 EU member states have different electoral systems. Especially in the larger countries, there are usually clauses that prevent a party from entering the EU Parliament when the number of votes remains under a certain threshold.
What also varies is that one German MEP represents more citizens than, for example, one from Cyprus - the number of MEPs is not proportional to the respective number of inhabitants of a member state. This sounds unfair, but it is logical: very small states could possibly not have a single member of parliament if there was exact proportionality.
Which parties and candidates will take part in the European elections in Germany?
A total of 41 political parties and groups in Germany are standing for election to the European Parliament. The CDU and CSU have for the first time presented a joint program and a joint top candidate Manfred Weber, who also wants to become President of the Commission. For that role, he will be primarily up against Social Democrat Frans Timmermans (Netherlands). The two had several TV duels in the run-up to the European elections.
In addition to others, the SPD will be competing in Germany with top candidate Katarina Barley (who will give up her office as German Justice Minister for the EU mandate), Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (Ska Keller, who is also top candidate of the European Greens, and Sven Giegold), FDP (Nicola Beer), Die Linke (Özlem Alev Demirel and Martin Schirdewan), AfD (Jörg Meuthen) and the Free Voters (Ulrike Müller).
Do some of the national parties come together in the EU Parliament?
In the parliament, the parties of the different member states join together to form European parties according to their political orientation. The largest European parties are the Christian-Conservative European People's Party (EPP), the Party of European Socialists (PSE), the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), the European Green Party/European Party (EGP), the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformers in Europe (AKRE), the European Left (GUE/NGL) and the Movement for a Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF).
At least 25 Members are required to form a political group.
What does the ballot look like and how do I fill it out?
The ballot for the European elections is not structured uniformly throughout Germany, because the order of the listed parties and candidates is determined individually for each state. In principle, however, each ballot paper has two columns, the parties and their lists of candidates are shown on the left, and voters can select one candidate by ticking the appropriate place on the right side.
What kind of voter turnout is expected?
While the voter turnout for the first European Parliament elections in 1979 was 65.7 percent, it declined in the decades that followed. In 2004 and 2009, only around 43 percent of those eligible to vote cast their votes, compared with 48 percent in 2014. Could things be different in 2019? According to a survey, interest in the European elections this year is greater than ever before. It remains to be seen to what extent this will affect actual voter turnout.
Are there already any predictions about the outcome of the European elections?
According to political experts, the outcome of the European elections in Germany could have far-reaching effects on the power structure of the current federal government: The CDU and the SPD could face massive losses of votes in the European elections on Sunday. It is expected that right-wing populist and nationalist parties could be bolstered in the European elections: Every tenth person wants to vote for a right-wing party in the European elections.
(Orig. text: Anna Maria Beekes; Translation: ck)