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EU elections: Here’s what you need to know

EU elections: Here’s what you need to know
The 28 EU member states, comprising some 512 million people will take to the polls to elect a total of 751 MEPs between now and Sunday, but what’s at stake and what can we expect?

Elections for the ninth European parliament come at a critical juncture for European politics, with rising geopolitical tensions worldwide thanks to bombastic rhetoric courtesy of the Trump administration aimed at both Iran and China and a tide of Euroskepticism.

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Key issues

In 2019, the main campaign issues are focused on a general economic slowdown across the region, the ongoing but somewhat slowed migrant crisis and a rising tide of Euroskepticism exemplified by the respective gains made by Germany's AfD, France's Front National, Golden Dawn in Greece, Italy's Five Star movement and, of course, the UK’s newly-minted Brexit party to name but a few.

Timeline

Voting began Thursday in the Netherlands and the UK, despite the latter's 2016 vote to leave the European Union. Ireland and the Czech Republic will follow suit on Friday May 24. The remaining EU member states will vote on the 25th and 26th.

Germany commands the most seats (96) given its population of 82.79 million citizens, whereas smaller nations like Malta and Luxembourg receive a paltry six seats.

What’s at stake?

The elected MEPs will serve five-year terms, and will be tasked with passing  EU laws, setting EU budgets and providing oversight for EU institutions. The European Commission proposes laws, but the European Parliament and the Council of Europe vote for said legislation in addition to any amendments.

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Many right-wing and anti-establishment parties are expected to make significant gains in the elections Europe-wide. The Parliament is further divided along political affiliation, not nationality, leading to the formation of subgroups including the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) as well as opposition groups who are predominantly Euroskeptic in nature, such as the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD), and the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF).

The European Council on Foreign Relations predicts this Euroskeptic subset could take up to one third of the parliamentary seats in the 2019 elections.

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UK - Chief among them is Farage’s new Brexit Party, as many expect him to replicate UKIP’s stunning victory in 2014, topping the EU elections with 27.5 percent of the British vote. The beleaguered British Conservative Party is expected to cede significant ground while opposition parties like Labour may also incur the wrath of a despondent UK populace who are weary of repeated failures to draw the Brexit saga to a close.

France - Marine Le Pen's right-wing National Rally party will fight a close battle with Emmanuel Macron's En Marche! party.

The Netherlands - Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s VVD party is expected to hold its own but the upstart, Euroskeptic Forum for Democracy (FvD) is set to be the big winner.

Germany - Voters are increasingly worried about the rise of China and the lack of a coordinated defensive posture for Europe dominated campaigning in Germany. The center-right Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union are expected to be the clear winners, but the surging AfD party may also replicate gains in previous elections amid growing national anxiety over immigration and asylum policy.

Italy - The incumbent Italian government, the anti-immigration League and the right-wing Five Star movement, are essentially fighting a proxy election campaign via the European elections, with each vying for control of their own national government after a fractured relationship.

The first official results are expected to be published at approximately 23:00CET on Sunday.

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