More than 400 million European citizens are eligible to head to the polls this week in an election which, by all indications, is set to significantly impact the trajectory of EU politics and policy over the next five years. Voters in the Netherlands and the UK kicked off the election on Thursday with voters in Ireland and the Czech Republic following suit today. However, the counting of votes and the release of official results cannot commence until Sunday evening at which point all 28 member states will have voted on their MEPs for the next mandate.
Opinion polls throughout the campaign point to a significant shift in favour of Eurosceptic, anti-immigrant and nationalist parties at the expense of the grand coalition of centre left and centre right blocs that have set the direction of EU policy over the past five years.
Results in the UK, Hungary, France, Poland and Italy will be closely watched as the key battlegrounds in determining the true strength of the Eurosceptic wave. The latest opinion polls suggest Eurosceptic and nationalist parties will win a third of the 751 seats which would result in a highly fragmented parliament. Following the results, which will flow in on Sunday and will be digested early next week, attention will immediately turn to negotiations over the make-up of the next coalition in the European Parliament which will have significant influence over the make-up of the next European Commission too. The informal ‘horse-trading’ amongst the political players will begin with a dinner between EU Heads of State and Government on Tuesday next week.