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Hundreds of millions of citizens will elect a new European Parliament – the EU’s only directly elected institution – from 23-26 May 2019 / Photo: European Commission

Voters go to the polls to elect European parliamentarians

Hundreds of millions of citizens will elect a new European Parliament – the EU’s only directly elected institution – from 23-26 May 2019. The elections, which hold every five years, give all adult EU citizens the opportunity to select who will represent them in the continental legislature.

A total of 751 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) currently represent more than 512 million people from 28 member states.

The polls are important as the MEPs decide how Europe will act in the coming years to address citizens’ concerns about jobs, business, security, migration and climate change.

Countries in the EU have different voting traditions and each one may decide on the exact election day within a four-day span, from Thursday (the day on which the Netherlands usually vote) to Sunday (when most countries hold their elections).

Voting practices vary across the EU, but there are also some common elements.

The allocation of seats in the Parliament takes into account the size of the population of each country. Currently, the number of MEPs ranges from six for Malta, Luxembourg and Cyprus to 96 for Germany.

Elections are contested by national political parties but once MEPs are elected, most opt to become part of transnational political groups. Voters at the European elections essentially decide which one of these European groupings will exert greater influence in the next legislative term.

Tens of thousands of people protested peacefully against nationalism and exclusion across the EU last Sunday. The rally under the slogan “A Europe for all – your vote against nationalism!” was to mobilise voters for the European elections, at which right-wing populists and eurosceptics are predicted to make big gains.

Some European companies have also been urging people to vote in the elections to prevent anti-EU forces scooping too many seats.

The number of MEPs after Brexit will be reduced to 705. If the UK is still an EU member state on 2 July, the current composition (751 MEPs) will continue to apply until the date of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Femi Awoniyi

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