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EU Election Special

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Every few years, the nations of Europe come together as one in a glorious folkfest of joy and unity. The bloody battles of history are forgotten in a spirit of optimism for a bright, new future.

But enough about the football, we've got a European parliamentary election to sort out.

A number of The Local's readers will be eligible to vote in Sweden, and hopefully the rest of you will be slightly curious to know what all the fuss is about. For the sakes of both groups, The Local has taken a deep breath and immersed itself in a number of fascinating information resources in an attempt to provide the definitive Guide to the European Parliamentary Elections (Sweden) 2004.

Here goes....

The European Parliament

25 countries in Europe are now members of the European Union (EU), including Sweden. The EU has a common currency, the Euro (although a few countries including Sweden have chosen to keep their national currency) and makes important decisions and laws on a number of issues which member states are obliged to follow. These include trade, freedom of movement, the environment, agriculture and many more.

EU has what amounts to a two chamber legislature. Both 'chambers' have similar powers when it comes to passing European law. The first is the Council of Ministers, made up of the government ministers of the member states. The government ministers are, of course, elected by the people of Europe in their national parliamentary elections.

The other 'chamber' is the European parliament. The current election is concerned with voting in the members of the parliament. The parliament sits in Strasbourg, France.

The 2004 European Parliamentary Election

Elections to the European Parliament are held every five years. There are 732 seats in the parliament, with 19 allocated to Sweden.

Most countries, including Sweden, will be voting on Sunday 13th June.

Who can vote in Sweden?

All Swedish citizens aged 18 or over are eligible to vote. In addition, all citizens of EU countries resident in Sweden are eligible to vote in Sweden.

Who on earth do I vote for?

Good question.

Let's start with having a look at the European Parliament. This contains members from national political parties from all member states. There's obviously no one individual party which has any kind of control of the parliament in terms of a high percentage of seats. Parties from the different countries have therefore formed broadly ideological alliances.

This is how the European Parliament looks now. A right old alphabet soup it is, too:

PPE-DEEuropean People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats (294 seats, including 7 Swedish)
PSE Party of the European Socialists (232,6)
ELDR European Liberal, Democratic and Reform Party (67,4)
Verts/ALE Greens/European Free Alliance (55,3)
GUE/NGL European United Left/Nordic Green Left (47,2)
UEN Union for Europe of the Nations Group (30,0)
EDD Group for a Europe of Democracies and Diversities (17,0)
NI Not attached (44,0)

In Sweden, voters can choose between the following seven main parties and two fringe groups. They're listed in order of rough ideological persuasion, starting from the left wing and going right.

Vänsterpartiet (v)

The Left Party. They currently have three European Members of Parliament (EMP's) affiliated to the Verts/ALE group.

The Left Party is actually anti-EU. They call for ten of Sweden's 19 seats to go to EU sceptics, although one would have thought that was up to the voters. They call for a referendum on the new EU constitution. The issues they consider are most important are prostitution, slavery and human trafficking and gender equality.

Miljöpartiet (mp)

The Greens. 2 EMP's (GUE/NGL group). Another EU sceptic party. Another party calling for a referendum on the new EU constitution. They demand a more open EU. Their slogan is that the world is bigger than the EU, which reflects their concern for global fair trade. This is their biggest issue apart from the environment.

Centerpartiet (c)

The Centre Party. 1 EMP (ELDR group). Pro EU. They want to work in the European Parliament to create more jobs and improve economic growth. They would like to see a slimmer, more focused organisation, concentrating on trade, international crime and the environment.

Socialdemokraterna (s)

The Social Democrats. 6 EMP's (PSE group). They regard the EU as a force for peace. They also want to use the EU to stimulate jobs and to create a clean environment.

Kristdemokraterna (kd)

The Christian Democrats. 2 EMP's (PPE-DE group). They want to see a more humane Europe. The EU should fight international crime and help protect the environment.

Folkpartiet (f)

The Liberals. 3 EMP's (ELDR group). The Liberals also see the EU as a force for peace and democracy in the world. They support its involvement in free trade, agriculture and the fight against international crime (including terrorism, human trafficking and drugs). They also call for greater openness and accessibility and a clearer decision-making process.

Moderaterna (m)

The Conservatives. 5 EMP's (PPE-DE group). Support a strong EU, but one limited in scope. It should concentrate on the internal European market, free trade, the environment, crime and European security.

Other parties

Nationaldemokraterna and the junilistan are also standing at the election. Nationaldemokraterna is a far right party, which believes that 'Europe and Sweden are being over-run with low paid workers and muslims'.

Junilistan is a new one issue party, the issue being the EU. Junilistan supports EU membership for Sweden, but want to counter centralising measures such as the Euro and the new constitution.

How do I vote and how does the election work?

If you are eligible to vote, you should have received a voting card.in the post from the Election Agency (Valmyndigheten). You need to take this and official Swedish ID with you to the polling station in order to vote. Your polling station is stated on the voting card.

Sweden is not divided into constituencies for the purposes of the European Parliamentary election. On the ballot paper, all the parties list all their candidates. You can either vote for a party, in which case the party will allocate your vote to a preferred candidate. Or you can specify a candidate. The candidates are listed in order of the party's preference.

Sweden runs a system of proportional representation. A party requires at least 4% of the vote to win a seat.

Sources: Riksdagen; Valmyndigheten; European Parliament

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