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 EUROPEAN ELECTIONS 

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:20:38 PM EST
Europe votes: Spain's Socialists can smile in defeat | Sarah Morris | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

For a man whose party is predicted to be defeated in Sunday's European elections, Spain's Socialist prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero seemed smiley and relaxed in a TV interview on Friday morning. Perhaps he's relieved the stakes aren't as high here as they are for the leader of his sister party in the UK. Win or lose, Zapatero's party is unlikely to demand his head on a platter despite the conservative People's party (PP) opposition's best efforts to turn the elections into a vote of no-confidence against him.

The PP started out with a campaign designed to hit the Socialists where it hurt. The party's TV ads featured ordinary people, telling the camera they were unemployed or worried about their jobs in a country that had created about half the layoffs in the EU in the past year, putting unemployment at about 15% of the active population. But, perhaps inspired by the way the British expense scandal clobbered Brown, the conservatives and their supportive media sniffed out what they thought Spanish voters would see as a crack in Zapatero's moral armour. Why does he use a military plane to fly to his party's rallies on the campaign trail at the expense of the taxpayer?

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:25:21 PM EST
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Without stars in their eyes -  Il Sole-24 Ore/ Presseurop

Record abstention for the elections this year come as no surprise, writes Il Sole 24 Ore. Confined to economic and geopolitical priorities, the European project, born out of the post-war reconciliation, no longer inspires.

Ever since we began electing our European representatives by universal suffrage in 1979, MEPs have seen their powers - both legislative and budgetary - wax as voter interest waned. Voter turnout, then 62%, dwindled to 45.4% in 2004. People keep saying Europe is a mysterious and remote entity. That is not true. Sometimes incomprehensible, to be sure, but definitely not remote. 80% of our national legislation originates in the Community matrix, produced by the Council of Ministers every bit as much as by the European Parliament. Our euro currency, interest rates, the fight against inflation and mega-deficits, studies, passport-free travel, safety standards, the environment, consumption: Europe is part and parcel of our day-to-day lives in these and plenty of other domains.

If Europe didn't exist, we'd have to invent it. It has provided a providential shelter from the storms we are now weathering - globalisation, the emergence of the colossal Chinese, Indian and Brazilian powerhouses, the current global socio-economic crisis. Admittedly, the model is not perfect, but it is an invaluable regional shock absorber for its Member States, whose national governments can no longer cope with global upheavals on their own.

And yet Europe is not understood by its people, eliciting only apathy - even outright hostility. According to the latest opinion poll by TNS Opinion, which came out just a few days ago, half the electorate (49%) will go to the polls. Assuming these forecasts hold true, the theorem of Europeans' mounting disaffection towards a Union that neither maltreats nor ignores any of its 27 member countries will remain an insoluble enigma.

Why is Europe steadily losing popularity?

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:25:47 PM EST
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BBC NEWS | Europe | Final round of marathon EU vote

Nineteen European Union countries are voting in the final round of the election for the European Parliament.

A number of nations of the 27-member union - including Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic - have already voted.

The 736 seats in the European parliament are up for grabs.

There are fears that voter turnout will reach a record low. No results are supposed to be announced until polls close on Sunday night.

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:27:47 PM EST
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Watching the eurosceptics | Presseurop

Opponents of the Lisbon Treaty, anti-capitalists, far-right extremists - dissenting parties may well be the major winners in the European elections, but what weight will they carry in the future parliament? wonders the European press.

Analysis of polls and results of the vote in the Netherlands suggest that Eurosceptics will be more numerous in the next parliament. As Polish daily Dziennik reports, the prospective alliance between British Conservatives, the Polish Law and Justice party and the Czech ODS has supporters of the Lisbon Treaty breaking out in a cold sweat, especially since this group may become the second largest force in Parliament, with the added anxiety that it will possibly benefit from the support of a extreme-right group led by Jean-Marie Le Pen and the Netherlands' Geert Wilders. If the Eurosceptics win enough votes, worries Dziennik, the European Union will have to postpone projects for common diplomatic initiatives, and plans to appoint a President of the European Union and a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Not all Eurosceptics are extremists, however, though extremists may be well be major winners in the current elections. German weekly Die Zeit reports that at least 12 extreme-right parties are expected to send representatives to Brussels and Strasbourg. "The extreme-right has now established a powerful network in Europe," it claims, and traditional parties have been unable to devise a strategy to oppose them. "All too often, democratic parties avoid taking these groups to task in constructive debate, but simply tolerate them with a condescending smile," says political analyst Britta Schellenberg. They tend "to respond on a strictly local level instead of reasoning in terms of Europe."
 

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:29:58 PM EST
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BBC NEWS | Europe | A toast to Europe's diversity

"Hi," I've said, 100 times and more. "My name's Jonny Dymond, I work for the BBC and I'm going round Europe ahead of the European Parliament elections and I'm trying to find out what people think of the EU. Are you going to vote? What do you think the big issues are?"

Some people engage willingly. A fair few look for a nurse or a policeman to help. Most people's eyes glaze over at the mention of the words "European Parliament".

They generally re-engage at the phrase "EU".

In some countries I thought I knew what was going to come. In many I was surprised.

"I would rather have met you today," I told a school teacher in Latvia, "than interviewed five prime ministers".

The fantastic thing about talking to people - as I have mentioned too often to friends and family - is that that they say such interesting things.

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:34:24 PM EST
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EUobserver / Bulgaria uses weather, music charts as code to get around exit poll rules

The Bulgarian media have been using the weather, as well as music and literary charts, as a fairly obvious code to get around a law that forbids the publishing of exit polls before the end of the elections.

On a day where the temperatures have in reality reached above 35 degrees, the temperature at the city hall - home to the mayor and leader of the centre-right Gerb party, Boyko Borisov - has oddly dropped to 25.5 degrees, the Bgnes news agency reports.

Some media have been using sunny weather as a code for election results

Meanwhile, near the governing Socialists' headquarters the temperature is an even chillier 20 degrees, it says.

The number of degrees celsius are a none-too-subtle code for the percentage the parties are supposed to have obtained.

Wind speed, code for voter turnout, was 26 metres per second at aroud 5:30 p.m., it also reported.

For its part, the Focus news agency is using books for its winking election result update. Focus has reported that 38 percent of people had gone to buy books by 6.00 p.m. on Sunday.

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:40:00 PM EST
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