Students' Guide to the May 2014 Elections (European Parliament)

On 22nd May 2014, European Parliamentary elections are taking place in the UK. There will also be local council elections taking place in some areas of England.

Photo of a few European flags

Registering to vote / the electoral roll

You must be registered in order to vote. The registration deadline for these elections is 6th May. Being registered on the electoral register (also known as electoral roll) can also be good for your credit rating,

As a student, you may be able to register both at home and at your term-time address. You can register if you are a British, Irish, Commonwealth or EU citizen who is residing in the UK.

See the About my vote – information for students page for more information.

What’s the European Parliament and what does it do?

The European Parliament is part of the infrastructure of the European Union, and it can approve, amend or reject European laws. The laws are proposed by other entities (the European Commission), which are not directly elected by the public.

recycling / environment

Perhaps the easiest comparison is that the European Parliament works a bit like the House of Lords does in the UK.

The About my vote – European Parliament page lists the topics the European Parliament covers:

  • animal rights
  • consumer rights
  • the environment
  • international trade
  • regional economic development
  • workers’ rights

The BBC Guide to the European Parliament’s Powers illustrates where it fits in the structure of the EU.

travelling

Here are some examples of recent European Parliament activities and laws:

  • A cap on bankers’ bonuses has been imposed and financial regulation has been tightened in the wake of the financial crisis
  • Price caps on roaming charges when using mobile phones and mobile internet browsing abroad have been introduced (within the EU)
  • Air Passengers’ rights have been boosted (which made airlines’ practice of overbooking flights much rarer, and ensured that passengers suffering flight cancellations are not stranded at their own expense)
  • The European Parliament has vetoed and scrapped a controversial anti-piracy treaty (ACTA) – which had been criticised for threatening people’s freedoms and reducing privacy

More examples can be found on the What has the European Parliament ever done for us? BBC article.

What candidates and parties are there?

faceless figure in a suit

You can only vote for the parties fielding candidates in the region where you are voting.

Your vote is for a party, rather than a candidate. Each party has listed its candidates in numbered order.

Those UK parties which have MEPs then join Europe-wide alliances with parties and politicans from other EU nations. A list of these can be found on the European Elections website

Here’s how the parties standing in Wales map into European parties and groups (listed in alphabetical order):

These alliances can change, and some individual MEPs belonging to UK parties have disaffiliated from their Europe-wide alliances. Britain First, No2EU, Socialist Labour Party and The Socialist Party of Great Britain do not currently have representation in the European Parliament.

What does the European Parliament mean for Wales?

Welsh flag

The BBC have created a helpful European Elections: Focus on Wales article.

Who is representing Wales at the moment?

Wales is represented by four Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). At the last election, the people of Wales elected one Conservative, one Labour, one Plaid Cymru and one UKIP MEP.

I’m new to voting in (EU) elections – which party stands for the things I believe in?

There are some tools which can help you figure out which political parties have voting records most similar to your own views. Vote Match Europe gives you a series of statements. For each, you can agree, disagree, or indicate that you neither agree nor disagree. At the end, you get a chance to highlight which of the topics you felt strongest about. The tool then shows you which parties have most in common with your own views and where the differences lie.

There are, of course, other considerations when voting: you might find that a party which broadly agrees with you has better chances of getting candidates elected than one which is a closer match, so you might vote strategically. But as a first step, it’s a great tool of figuring out how much their candidates’ views are likely to have in common with your own.

Can I vote against the EU?

Eurosceptic girl sticking her tongue out at Europe

Various politicians in the UK talk about running a referendum on EU membership in a few years’ time. The EU Parliament Elections, however, have nothing to do with the talk about a possible referendum. If you want the UK to leave the EU, this is something which you may wish to take into consideration when voting in the next General Election in the UK, as the different UK parties promise different strategies for dealing with EU membership.

The main question for the European Parliamentary Election is: which of the parties do you trust to represent your views at a European level?

Who’s likely to win this election?

There is also a Cardiff University blog about the elections and predictions / opinion polls for Wales. However, the polls have been varying widely and rapidly in recent weeks.