TIME TO DECIDE - EUROPEAN ELECTION WEEK

This week sees another landmark in Europe´s history, as the continent embarks on the next phase of election to choose the 751 members of the European parliament who will represent the people of the member states for the next five years.

Taking place between the 22nd and the 25th of May, the actual day of voting is dictated by the laws of each member state. It is widely known that the UK generally goes to the polling booths on a Thursday, whereas the standard in Spain is Sunday, for example, which is why the elections are held over a period of days. The results from all 28 states of Europe will be announced on the evening of Sunday the 25th.

The number of elected parliament members has been reduced to 751, after increasing to 766 when Croatia joined the EU in 2013. According to the official data, the MEPs represent over 500 million citizens in 28 member states, whereas the seats are allocated on the basis of “degressive proportionality”, meaning countries with larger populations have more seats than smaller ones but the latter have more seats than strict proportionality would imply.

As a local party who blatantly profess a sole interest in the Orihuela Costa, the local C.L.A.R.O. political group will not be standing in the European elections, but the group, under the lead of Bob Houliston, has been instrumental in assisting many confused ex-pat voters through the process and procedures of voting, as well as emphasizing the importance.

In a statement, Bob Houliston shows how the European Parliament has been of huge importance to the people served at a local level, explaining how on two occasions recently the European Parliament has supported Petitions presented by C.L.A.R.O. First in 2007, in a campaign to get proper street names and house numbers on the Orihuela Costa, then again in another major campaign, that which is still being fought with the backing of Europe, the campaign to “Save Cala Mosca”.

With the wave of publicity which has seen the run up to these elections, it might be easy to believe that there are only perhaps one or two political groups standing for election in Spain, but this opinion could not be further from the truth. Spain will hold a total of 54 seats in the European Parliament, the UK having 73 incidentally, and of the political groups standing, in the Valencia region there are a total of 41 different groups looking to represent the country.

It is no small task to be eligible to represent a country in Europe though, so all of these groups are equally as valid in their intentions. PACMA, a group dedicated to animal rights and animal welfare are standing for election this year, and as they explained, they entered the European forum with over 40,000 signatures supporting their representation, more than double the minimum required by the Electoral Act.

The Pirate Confederation is a similar group who say that they stand for openness, transparency, citizen participation and staunch defense of fundamental rights. The first time they have stood for Europe, their achievement even seemed to surprise them.

The inclusion of a group supporting feminism might seem unusual in an election being held in 2014, but with the dominance of men in politics, and the concerns over subjects like abortion laws and equality, it is perhaps more necessary than ever that the rights of women are represented, as it is the rights of all citizens of the continent.

There is no doubt that the PP and Psoe are the political muscle, not only in national terms, but also in the build up to these elections, but, much like the UK, they too are facing an ever increasing threat from the outside. The two biggest risks that the political “big-boys” face at the moment are the Izquierda Unida (IU) and the Unión Progreso y Democracia (UPyD). Although polls are often only an indication of the outcome, recent opinions have seem a relatively similar distance between the PP and Psoe at the top, bordering at just over and just under 30% respectively, but as relatively new groups, the Iu seem to be hovering at around 10%, and the UPyD at around 7%. Bearing in mind the number of groups competing, this is a significant development, considering that all other parties combined are only making up around 15% of the general opinion.

Apart from the obvious moral warmth that the MEP´s will gain from representing their electorate, there is no doubt that they will also gain personally for their newly elected roles. For those about to be flung into the limelight representing Spain, the budget set for their salary is 8,020.53 euro per month. For comparison, the President of the Government of Spain, Mariano Rajoy, receives a basic pre-tax salary of 6,515.42 euro, the Ministers receive 5,748.49. Taking into account our MEP´s pay tax, their salary does come down to just 6,250.37 euro per month, but doesn´t include the additional allowance for travel and food when attending the meetings in Strasbourg and Brussels, which is set at a maximum of 304 euro per day. They are at risk of losing that allowance if they fail to attend a required number of meeting though. According to the European Parliament, the salary of MEP´s is set at 38.5% of the basic salary of a judge of the Court of Justice of the European Communities.

There is also money to be made at a local level too. As part of the electoral process, town halls have to provide and monitor polling stations and auditors under the Electoral Act. This was done in Orihuela during an extraordinary plenary meeting in April, attended by political representatives of the government and opposition. As they can all claim their daily expenses for attending that meeting, at 200 euro per person, the ten minute meeting where computers did the selection process is a nice little earner for those at a local level too, Orihuela here used as an example of what would have occurred across the country.

Now, as those who registered have their voting cards at the ready, indicating the address of the polling station and hours you are requested to attend, you must remember to take your official identity documents with you and them be prepared to do your bit to choose who may represent you in Europe.

If you want more information about all political groups and the process of voting, the official website is available in a variety of languages, at www.elections2014.eu. For more local based information, Bob Houliston will be joining Mark Nolan on Exite Radio on Monday morning in the final days before the elections. You can listen to that chat just after 10:00 on 93.1 fm, or via the website, www.exiteradio.com.

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/43677/

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