The European elections start today with polls opening in the UK and the Netherlands. On Friday Ireland and the Czech Republic will vote (the Czech Republic will have polls open for two days to help people vote). Slovakia, Latvia, Malta and the French Overseas Territories vote on Saturday, and the rest of the 28 Member States hold their polls on Sunday.
At the moment the polls are giving a slight lead to the European People's Party over the Party of European Socialists, with the Liberals predicted to win 8-10% of the seats in Parliament, and the Greens and AECR lower on around 5-6%. The United European Left bloc could increase their seats and win around 6-7% if the polls are right, while the anti-EU Europe of Freedom and Democracy group could win 5% of the seats. The European polls are a complicated working out of which groups are likely to win seats and adding them up for a European prediction, so I'm not sure how accurate they will turn out to be.
That the elections tend to be plagued by low turnout means that it could be a case of who can mobilise their support the best - will the Euroskeptics get a big boost in practice? The recent polls seem to indicate that the UEL is benefiting from the political mood more than the EFD - the the biggest increase may be for the Independents who haven't aligned with any political grouping yet.
The elections will decide on the make-up of the Parliament for the next 5 years: will it lean left or right on the economy and austerity; will it be pro- or anti-integrationist; will it go for CAP reform; and will it have strong civil liberties or law and order voice? A lot of the issues people talk about, or have complaints about, are around these issues, so this is your chance to help shape EU politics. A running theme of the election has been how can the EU be brought closer to citizens and made more accountable. Well, while there are a lot of changes that should be made to bring the EU closer to citizens, the fact is that citizens will only be heard if they use their voice. Voting in the election is one way of doing that, so go for the party or candidate that best represents your views - remember, they're going to be there for 5 years...
This election should also decide the next Commission President. We've had debates between the candidates (the latest being between Juncker and Schulz on German TV), and campaign buses crossing the continent. The Parliament should stick to its guns on this and make sure that the candidate of the winning party gets the job: this will make the elections matter more, and make the EU more accountable to citizens.