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Politics

British and Dutch voters head to the polls today, the first two EU nations to cast ballots in the 2009 cycle of the European Parliament elections. In both countries, parties that normally fall far outside the mainstream are now receiving significant attention, and will likely earn addition MEPs.

At the same time, the new European Conservatives coalition in the EP should receive a boost from today’s voting.

UK top four current parties:

UK Party Current MEPs Last 3 polls ave.
Conservatives 27 (26.7 %) 26.6 %
Labour 19 (22.6 %) 20.3 %
Liberal Dems 12 (14.9 %) 18.3 %
UK Indep. 9 (16.1 %)* 17.6%

While the two “major” parties in the UK look to be performing quite poorly, particularly the Labour government, this performance is not significantly worse than the last round of elections. In the 2004 EP elections, the very unpopular Blair government was taken to task by the British public, and lost 6 EP members. At the same time, the Conservative opposition fared even worse, losing 8 MEPs. In return, the Liberal Dems and UK Independence Party won a combined 12 new MEPs. After today’s voting, the UK delegation will likely remain center-right, with a slightly more euro-skeptic bent.

That said, if an especially poor Labour showing were to take down the Brown government – still quite unlikely at this point – it would be another example of the political warping of the EU/EP and it’s role in member state politics.

In the Netherlands, turnout is expected to remain equal to or slightly higher than the 39.1 % of eligible voters that participated in 2004. Dropping from 27 MEPs because of the expansion of the EU to include Bulgaria and Romania since in the 2004 round, the Dutch will today elect 25 members. Most interesting will be the outcome for Geert Wilders’ PVV (Party of Freedom), a far right wing operation that is best known for Wilders’ “I don’t hate Muslims, I hate Islam,” comment. Some have suggested, supported by the last few polling results, that the PVV could possibly garner the highest vote total.

Netherlands top five current parties:

NED Party Current MEPs Last 2 polls ave.
Christian Dems 7 (24.4 %) 18.0%
Labour Party 7 (23 .6 %) 15.5%
Freedom and Democ. 4 (13.2 %) 13.2%
Socialists 2 (7.0 %) 11.1 %
Party for Freedom 0 17.0 %

The Socialists and Freedom Party look to make the largest gains in the Dutch delegation, which for the Socialists would represent three consecutive elections with a gain in MEPs. This began in 1999, when they earned their first member with just 5.0% of the vote. Geert Wilders and his far-right, anti-immigrant, anti-Islam party will also make news based on the EP coalition his projected 3-5 MEPs will join; or if they instead remain unaligned. Indicators of the Dutch voting may be available as early as tomorrow, as the release of exit polling data has been promised, over the protests of the EU.

* UKIP initially won 12 seats in the 2004 elections, before two members were expelled due to allegations of voter fraud, and an additional member resigned later.
Note: Commentor noted a typo in the conservatives figure, which has been fixed. Cheers!


Renard Sexton is FiveThirtyEight’s international columnist and is based in Geneva, Switzerland. He can be contacted at sexton538@gmail.com

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