UK set to continue low turnout trend for EU vote
By Tim Black
With the results of the UK European elections not due until late Sunday, and no exit polls permitted on Thursday (22 May), the day of the vote itself, there will no doubt be a great deal of speculation in the interim.
But one aspect of the vote which is becoming clearer is the turnout, which, as it stands, could well be higher than the 34.7 percent who voted in 2009, but is unlikely to exceed the UK EU elections high of 38.4 percent in 2004.
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Turnout predictions during Thursday were rather pessimistic, a mood exacerbated by the thunder storms and heavy rain that hit parts of the UK.
According to one source, turnout in areas where only EU elections were taking place (that is, without the added incentive to vote in a local council election) was predicted to sink to just 15 percent.
But, as the night progressed, and the results of the English local council elections (held simultaneously with the EU elections) started coming in, the general turnout estimates took on a more positive hue.
In Croydon, in south-east England, Gavin Barwell, a Tory MP, said he expected turnout to be "typical for a local election, in the mid thirties [percent]".
In London, where all local council seats are up for grabs, the turnout could well be higher. In the borough of Merton, turnout was registered at 41 percent. And in one ward in the borough of Harringay, turnout was put at nearly 50 percent.
But outside of London, the turnout so far has been more typical of the non-General Election norm of mid-30 percent. For Sunderland city council in north-east England, 33 percent voted. And in one ward in Preston, in the north west, turnout was confirmed at 34 percent.
Still, even before the results and exact turnout figures become available, one thing looks certain: the UK will continue to have the lowest percentage of people voting in EU elections in Western Europe.