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European Parliamentary Elections
Five reasons these EU elections are different
The union's first ever "presidential candidate debate". The parliamentary groups have nominated candidates to head the European commission. Photo: TT

Five reasons these EU elections are different

Published: 22 May 2014 10:31 GMT+02:00
Updated: 22 May 2014 10:31 GMT+02:00

1) The EU Parliament has a lot more power than before:

Since 2009 it has become, in partnership with the European Commission, fully responsible for the EU budget. Previously the body had decision making powers over some spending items, but others were mandated. 

2) Election of one Europe’s most powerful leaders:

For this first time, MEPs will have a say on who might become the next President of the European Commission, who is considered  the EU’s most powerful office holder, with significant powers, including the ability to introduce new legislation. The EU parliamentary groups have agreed that their choice of candidate for president will be drawn from the bloc that wins the most seats, which is where the voters come in.

Although national governments have the ultimate say in choosing the president of the European Commission, in theory they are likely to chose the nominee put forward by parliament or risk a clash with parliament and a "crisis of democracy". 

At the moment the race to succeed current president Jose Manuel-Barroso seems a straight fight between the former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker and German politician and President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz. 

3) A chance to say no to more austerity:

This is the first EU parliamentary election since the darkest days of one the worst economic crisis to ever hit Europe. The crisis has prompted some member nations like Greece to be forced into billions of euros in austerity cuts at the hands of the EU in exchange for bailout money.

The elections are an opportunity for voters to show if they agree with the EU's ongoing policy of austerity.

4) It is voters only chance to have a direct say on the EU’s leadership:

One of European citizens' most common critiques of the EU is the feeling of the “democratic deficit” in the union’s operations. The vast layers of bureaucracy, including the European Commission, is composed of appointed leaders who oversee some 33,000 workers. But members of European Parliament are the only EU officials directly elected by European citizens, so we might as well have a say in who they are.

5) The rise of extremist groups across Europe:

Between 15 and 30 per cent of seats in the new parliament could go to anti-EU parties on the far left and right, some of whom are intent on stopping the EU from working and basically wrecking it from within. The way to hold them at arm's length is to turn up on election day and vote. 

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