Cumbernauld Media's run down of Thursday's European Parliament elections

Written by Scott Campbell. Scott Campbell
Published at 19:10 on 16 May 2014.
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This election's slogan. Picture: copyright of the European Commission.
 




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POLLS will open at 7am next Thursday (May 22nd) in an election which is seen as being a forerunner for the independence referendum in September; the elections will see six Members of the European Parliament elected by the people of Scotland - and, despite common cynicism towards the European Union, the importance of these elections cannot be understated.

The European Parliament is the only body of the European Union which is directly elected by voters across the European continent, and elections to the Parliament take place every five years. And, in this feature, I will attempt to explain the aims, powers and purposes of the European Union, and attempt to help you better understand how to and why you should vote in this year's 2014 European Parliament elections.

What is the European Parliament?

Elections are administered by individual member states, but all in, 751 members are to be returned to the European Parliament, in this election, which - as part of the wider institutions of the European Union - has power over various issues ranging from agriculture, food safety, maritime affairs, and fisheries to customs, taxation, human rights, climate change action and space-based technologies. 

Although the politics of the United Kingdom is starting to focus on the future of the UK’s relationship with the European Union; asking whether the UK stays or leaves the E.U., in the run-up to next year’s General Election, the European Union is important to the United Kingdom. 

The UK in the EU.

Scots will be able to vote in the European Parliament elections on May 22nd; voting for six Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) out of the 73 MEP positions afforded to the United Kingdom, which is broken down into 12 multi-member regional constituencies. These constituencies include the East Midlands, the East of England, London, the North East, the North West, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the South East, the South West, Wales, the West Midlands, and Yorkshire and the Humber. 

Elections elsewhere in Europe can and do take place on any of the other election dates, between May 22nd and May 25th. 

Interesting facts.

Interestingly, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is only the second European Union country to vote in EU Parliamentary elections on May 22nd. The other country is the Netherlands. The Republic of Ireland is the only country to vote on May 23rd, whilst the Czech Republic is the only EU member state to hold European Parliamentary elections over two days, between May 23rd and May 24th. The rest of Europe heads to the ballot box on May 25th, with the exceptions of Latvia, Malta and Slovakia, where voters are balloted on May 24th. 

A second interesting fact is that the United Kingdom has the third highest number of seats in the European Union; Germany, for instance, has 96 seats; France has 74 and both the United Kingdom and Italy have 73. 

A third and final interesting fact is that the United Kingdom has some 12.6 per cent of the European Union’s 505,665,739 strong population. 

What is European Parliament there for?

When it comes to the European Parliament, however, the hemicycle chamber (meaning semi-circular or horseshoe shaped, like the Scottish Parliament) has three main purposes. These purposes are to debate and passing European laws, with the Council of the European Union, or ‘Council’; scrutinise other EU institutions, particularly the Commission, to make sure they are working democratically; and, debate and adopt the EU's budget, with the Council. 

What political parties are in the European Parliament?

Members of the European Parliament also sit in European party groups, rather than national parties. 

For example, at present, Scotland’s six MEPs are the Scottish National Party (SNP)'s Ian Hudghton and Alyn Smith; the Liberal Democrat's George Lyon; the Conservative Party's Struan Stevenson; and, Labour's David Martin and Catherine Stihler. However, in European Parliament terms, SNP MEPs sit as part of the Greens and Free Alliance; Conservative MEPs sit in the European Parliament chamber as part of the Conservatives and Reformists; Labour's MEPs sit in the European Parliament as part of the Socialists and Democrats group, whilst Liberal Democrat MEPs sit in the European Parliament as part of the Liberals and Democrats group. 

How do I vote?

You will be able to vote in the European Parliament elections between 7am and 10pm on May 22nd. You have to register to vote by May 6th, and be a British citizen living in the UK, a qualifying Commonwealth citizen living in the UK, a citizen of the Republic of Ireland living in the UK, or an EU citizen living in the UK, aged 18 or over on the day of the vote. You can register to vote online

You can also register for a postal vote, which means that you don’t have to go to the polling station on May 22nd. You can find more information on postal voting here. And, you can also get somebody to vote on your behalf – known as ‘voting by proxy’. You can find out more about proxy voting here. Regardless of whether you vote by post or by visiting the polling station, however, you will get a ballot paper something like this:



In voting, you cross the box next to the party or independent candidate which you support. You can only put one cross in one box. Please make that you also follow any and all instructions on the ballot paper. Thereafter, MEPs are elected using a method called ‘d'Hondt’, except in Northern Ireland where the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system is used. 

What is ‘d’Hondt’?

The ‘d’Hondt’ system is ultimately a counting system where the number of MEPs that are elected from each party to represent a region depends on the overall share of votes that each party receives, but differing from the STV system in that it doesn’t rely on quotas. 

It’s named after Belgian mathematician Victor D'Hondt, who described it in 1878; and the system can either be closed or open lists – referring to whether the parties select the order of the election of candidates or whether the voter has any choice in this regard. In the UK, the list is closed. 

To put the system into context, the system can be explained as each party is ultimately equal in the first round. Then, the party with the largest number of seats is awarded one MEP and its total number of votes is then divided by two (total number of MEPs + 1). Thereafter, in the second round, the next party with the largest number of votes is awarded an MEP, with its original number of votes then reduced by number of MEPs + 1. 

So, in essence, the d’Hondt system is very simply the largest party, on total number of votes, is awarded an MEP; its original number of votes is then reduced by the number of MEPs it has + 1, and so the system continues. 

2009 European Parliament elections.

For example, let’s look at the 2009 results for the European Parliament elections, in Scotland. 

This was the final share and totals of the vote for the six main parties:

First round

In the first round, the SNP get the most votes. So, therefore, they are awarded one seat and their total vote (321,007) is therefore reduced by half (the number of seats plus one), leaving them with 160,503.5 votes. 

Second round

In the second round, Labour clearly has the highest amount of votes, with 229,853. Therefore, Labour is awarded one seat, and their total number of votes in reduced by half (again, the number of seats plus one), leaving Labour with 114,926.5 votes. 

Third round

In the third round, the Conservative Party has the next highest number of votes. Therefore, the Conservatives are awarded one seat and their original number of votes is halved (number of seats plus one), leaving them with 92,897 votes. 

Fourth round

In the fourth round, the SNP have the highest number of votes. Therefore, they are awarded a second seat and their original number of votes (321,007) is reduced by the number of seats plus one – i.e. 321,007 divided by 2 seats + 1= 107,002.3. 

Fifth round

In the fifth round, the Liberal Democrats have the highest number of votes, so they are awarded one seat and their total number of votes – which stands at 127,038 is reduced by the number of seats plus one, so that’s 127,038 divided by 2, leaving them with 63,519. 

Sixth round

And finally, as there are six seats available in the constituency of Scotland, a sixth and final round is necessary. Again, the party with the largest remaining number of votes in sought; and, in this case it’s Labour with 114,926.5 votes. So, they are awarded a second seat and as with the SNP, their original number of votes (229,853) is reduced by the number of seats plus one – i.e. 229,853 divided by 2 seats + 1= 76,617.6. 

This process would be repeated until the number of seats for each constituency is filled. 

Who’s standing this year?

Scotland requires six Members of the European Parliament, and a variety of parties have put up candidates to fight for seats in this year’s elections. You can view the full list in the table below.

Full candidate list.

Party

Candidate/s

Party list order

Britain First

James Dowson

John Arthur Randall

Jayda Fransen

Geoffrey Clynch

Margaret Clynch

Jane Shepherd

1

2

3

4

5

6

British National Party

Kenneth McDonald

David Orr

Victoria McKenzie

Angus Matthys

Paul Stafford

Stacey Fleming

1

2

3

4

5

6

Conservative

Ian Duncan

Belinda Don

Nosheena Mobarik

Jamie Gardiner

Iain McGill

Stuart McIntyre

1

2

3

4

5

6

Green Party

Maggie Chapman

Chas Booth

Grace Murray

Alastair Whitelaw

Anne Thomas

Steen Parish

1

2

3

4

5

6

Labour Party

David Martin

Catherine Stihler

Derek Munn

Katrina Murray

Asim Khan

Kirsty O'Brien

1

2

3

4

5

6

Liberal Democrats

George Lyon

Christine Jardine

Richard Brodie

Jade Holden

Siobhan Mathers

Euan Davidson

1

2

3

4

5

6

NO2EU

John Foster

Andrew Elliott

Murdo Maclean

Gail Morrow

Brian Smith

Richard Veitch

1

2

3

4

5

6

Scottish National Party

Ian Hudghton

Alyn Smith

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh

Stephen Gethins

Toni Giugliano

Chris Stephens

1

2

3

4

5

6

UKIP

David Coburn

Kevin Newton

Otto Inglis

Denise Baykal

Hugh Hatrick

Malcolm Mackay

1

2

3

4

5

6

Polls open for the European Parliament election on 7am on May 22nd. The final results are expected to be declared and finalised at 21:00 GMT on May 25th


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