9th Dec 2023

EU election countdown: 18 days to go

The British parliament expenses scandal could see far-right parties do better than previously expected in the EU elections, polls indicate. Meanwhile, German socialists are keen to block Barroso from a second term at the commission helm.

Smaller parties and the right-wing fringe of UK politics are so far emerging from the ongoing expenses scandal as the least-tarnished, with galloping implications for the make-up of the next European Parliament, British media report.

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  • British PM Gordon Brown - the expenses row could cost his party dear in the EU election (Photo: European Parliament - Audiovisual Unit)

A YouGov poll for tabloid The Sun put the ruling Labour party at 20 percent, the Conservatives at 29 and the centrist Liberal Democrats at 19, leaving a full 30 percent of votes free. A Mail on Sunday survey put Labour on par with the eurosceptic UKIP, with both on 17 percent. A Telegraph survey suggests the far-right BNP could get 7 percent.

Most commentators agree the BNP is on track to win its first-ever EU seat, and may win as many as three. The Telegraph suggests it could get seven. The greens are set to out-do BNP. Mainstream nationalist parties, such as Wales' Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party are also surging ahead.

Austrian newspapers report widely on a weekend TV appearance by Hans-Peter Martin, an independent MEP, who made himself unpopular among colleagues after a public sting on alleged scamming of the expenses system in the EU parliament. Mr Martin hopes his transparency platform will win two to three seats in the elections and ultimately lead to a group of 10 to 20 "noisy" pro-reform MEPs from around Europe.

Germany's mass-selling Bild newspaper reports that the Socialists are trying to block the centre-right Jose Manuel Barroso from becoming European Commission chief for a second time. "If the Social Democrats become the strongest power in the European Parliament, there will be no automatic [succession] for Mr Barroso," Martin Schulz, head of the socialists in the European Parliament, told the newspaper. The place of social rights in the internal market could feature in the negotiations on the next commission chief, he indicated.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will on Monday evening (18 May) officially mark the beginning of the European election campaign for her centre-right CDU party. She will be flanked by outgoing European Parliament chief Hans-Gert Poettering, who heads the CDU list. The European elections are being seen as a test run for the country's general election in September.

The main parties in Bulgaria launched their electoral campaigns over the weekend, bringing actors and singers to events. Liberals from the NDSV faction will benefit from the fact they were in power when Bulgaria joined Nato and signed its EU accession treaty, as well as its successful EU commissioner Meglena Kuneva.

The nationalist Ataka party launched its campaign with the slogan "No to Turkey in the EU." Its list will be headed by 25-year-old Dimitar Stoyanov, the youngest-ever MEP who famously sent out an offensive email against a Roma-origin Hungarian deputy.

Spain's supreme court voted by 11 votes to five over the weekend to prevent the International Initiative party from running in June, however. The court said it deemed the party to be a direct successor to the banned Batasuna party, the former political wing of the ETA separatist group.

Digital campaigning takes off

In cyberspace, the European Parliament's advertising company, Scholz & Friends, reports that its viral YouTube videos, aimed at increasing voter turnout, have in just eight days become the most successful ever EU online movies. The clips - making fun of horror movie or sports clichés - have scooped between 50,000 and 170,000 views each.

Italian right-wing leader Silvio Berlusconi's PDL party is also making a big push on the web. Twenty-five PDL candidates are using social networking site Facebook in the campaign, followed by 20 centre-left Democratic Party hopefuls and 15 Christian-conservative UDC party names. Facebook groups seeking to sabotage individual MEPs and groups against using Facebook for politics have also sprung up.

Polish opinion polls show how much the political ground has shifted since the 2004 EU elections, when socialist, far-right and far-left parties dominated the vote. The ruling liberal Civic Platform party is in 2009 set to get 27 MEPs (out of Poland's total of 50) compared to 15 last time around. The right-wing Law and Justice party is to get 14 compared to seven.

The anti-Lisbon treaty Libertas party again dominated Polish headlines this weekend, amid reports the faction will switch the location of its 4 June Paris congress to Gdansk and again pay Polish anti-Communist hero Lech Walesa to make a speech.

Libertas got a 30-minute campaign spot on Polish national TV on Saturday, with accusations that the TVP station chief, Piotr Farfal, has links to the group. Reports from Ireland - that Irish Libertas MEPs want to create barriers for Poles to work on the island - also hit the Polish front pages on Monday.

Sarkozy's faction dominates polls

The latest TNS Sofres survey in France indicates that President Sarkozy's centre-right UMP party will trounce the socialist opposition in Paris by 33 percent against 22 percent. Opposition paper Le Monde said the socialists are "stagnating." A separate poll in Le Figaro said the centre-right MoDem party leader Francois Bayrou is the main Sarkozy opponent, with the socialists' Martine Aubry far behind.

Danish polls show established MPs - such as Morten Messerschmidt, Jens Rohde and Bent Bendtsen - have a big chance of retaining seats. A Gallup survey in Berlingske Tidende said Danish Social Democrats stand to get three places, the Liberals three, the Danish People's Party two and the Conservatives one. The Danish Social-Liberal Party may get the last post, while the EU-critical JumeMovement could lose its existing seat.

Prime Minister Brian Cowan in Ireland said over the weekend that he will not be stepping down if his party loses ground in the upcoming local and European elections, as polls suggest it will. "The last thing the country needs at the moment is another period of instability," he told Irish media.

Romania's Elena Basescu - the glamorous, 29-year old daughter of the president, famous for her gaffes and grammatical errors - admitted on her website that she might have bitten off more than she can chew with her election campaign. "Yes, I want to win, although I realize I might be aiming too high now," she wrote.

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