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How to watch the EU election like a Pro

How to watch the EU election like a Pro

by host
How to watch the EU election like a Pro

BRUSSELS — If you’re a political news junkie, get ready for a four-day fix.

The European Parliament election kicks off on Thursday — have you heard? — and lasts until Sunday evening, when preliminary results will show what the European Union’s politics will look like for the coming five years.

With votes taking place in 27 countries and politicians from some 200 parties across Europe up for election, you’re forgiven if you miss a beat. 

Thankfully, we’re here to help. POLITICO has drafted the ultimate playbook for how to watch the European Parliament election.



Once more, the basics

Voters will head to the ballot boxes in all 27 EU countries on June 6-9 to choose their members of the European Parliament. 

Some 373 million Europeans are eligible to vote. They will elect 720 representatives. That’s 15 more than last time, but less than the 751 MEPs who were in the Parliament before Brexit.

Elected members take their seats in mid-July for a first plenary session.

Explainer: What is the EU election? A beginner’s guide

Podcast: EU Confidential: EU election 101 — your questions answered

The schedule

Here’s how the vote goes down and what to watch out for in each country:

— Thursday

The Netherlands opens the polls. It elects 31 MEPs. Voters cast ballots from 7.30 a.m. to 9 p.m., all with pen and paper because of a long-standing distrust of voting computers. The far-right Freedom Party (PVV) and new populist parties are set to gain seats. The new coalition government also put the liberals (VVD) of outgoing prime minister Mark Rutte in a tough spot within their EU Parliament group after agreeing to work with Geert Wilders.

— Friday 

Ireland’s polls are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The country elects 14 MEPs. Long-time figureheads of the EU’s Left group, Clare Daly and Mick Wallace, face an uphill battle to get reelected.

The Czech Republic also opens the polls for a two-day election. It elects 21 MEPs. Polling stations are open from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on June 7 and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 8.

— Saturday

Latvia opens the polls from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. The country elects nine members of Parliament. 

Malta votes from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. As one of the three smallest EU countries, it only elects six members. 16 and 17-year-olds can cast a ballot. We’ll watch as European Parliament President Roberta Metsola casts her vote in her home country and whether her Nationalist Party can gain an extra seat (going up from two to three seats).

Slovakia opens the polls from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. It elects 15 MEPs. The country’s ruling party Smer could see support swell after the assassination attempt on Prime Minister Robert Fico in May.

Italy kicks off its two-day voting. As the third-largest EU country, it elects 76 members. Polling stations open on June 8 from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. and on June 9 from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. All eyes are on Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and whether she gives indications in her post-election speech on where the support of her European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) political group will go — she’s been courted by Ursula von der Leyen and Marine Le Pen. 

— Sunday

It’s the Super Sunday of the European Parliament election. 

Austria opens the polls. The country elects 20 members. Polling station opening hours vary: Most are open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; smaller municipalities close at midday. 16 and 17-year-olds can cast a ballot. The far-right Freedom Party is set to win; POLITICO’s in-depth report on how it is undermining the country’s intelligence agency rocked the campaign boat. 

Belgium votes from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.; electronic voting is possible until 4 p.m. It’s a triple election — at European, federal and regional level — and the vote could dramatically shift the country’s future as the Flemish-nationalist vote grows in the northern region of Flanders. Belgium elects 22 MEPs. Voting is compulsory; 16 and 17-year-olds will vote for the first time in an EU election.

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ELECTION POLL OF POLLS

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For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.

Bulgaria votes from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. It elects 17 members in a compulsory vote for all eligible citizens. The country is holding a national election on the same day.

Croatia votes, with polling stations open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The country elects 12 members of the EU Parliament. 

Cyprus votes from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. We’ll be watching to see if Fidias Panayiotou, a 24-year-old online influencer, will be one of the six people that Cyprus sends to the European Parliament.

Denmark votes from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. It elects 15 members. The vote boils down to a referendum on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s Social Democrat party and its junior coalition partner Venstre. 

Estonia holds its official election day, even though voting started on June 3. It elects seven MEPs. Polling stations open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Estonia prides itself on its electronic voting: people can cast a ballot from their computer at home.

Finland votes from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. It elects 15 members. Polls suggest voters will back the quiet but resolute response of Prime Minister Petteri Orpo’s National Coalition Party (NCP) to the aggressions of eastern neighbor Russia.

France votes from 8 a.m. and polls are open until 6 p.m. at the earliest. The country elects 81 members. All eyes are on how the far-right National Rally and its leader Jordan Bardella perform — it’s likely to be the largest far-right national party in terms of EU Parliament members — and how embarrassing the result is for President Emmanuel Macron. 

Germany votes from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. As the EU’s largest country, it elects 96 members. 16 and 17-year-olds can cast a ballot. In the last stretch of the campaign, the murder of a police officer, flooding in the country’s south, and a crisis for the far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) are pulling voters in all sorts of directions.

As the EU’s largest country, Germany elects 96 members. | Jens Schlueter/Getty Images

Greece votes. Polling stations will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. It elects 21 members. The vote is compulsory and the minimum voting age is 17. The far-right, ultranationalist Greek Solution party is set to get twice as many votes as it did in last year’s election, solidifying its role as the “bad boy” of Greek politics.  

Hungary votes from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. It elects 21 MEPs. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party have been carpet-bombing social media with online political ads. But we’ll keep a close eye on the results of challenger Péter Magyar and his Respect and Freedom Party, which is galvanizing anti-government voters.

Lithuania votes from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It elects 11 members.

Luxembourg votes. People can cast their ballots from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Voting is compulsory in the country, which elects only six MEPs. Social-democrat lead candidate Nicolas Schmit is casting his vote in Luxembourg in the morning. 

Poland’s polling stations open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. The country elects 53 members. It’s a neck-and-neck race between the ruling Civic Platform and the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) — but it’s also the third major vote for Poles in months, so we’re watching (potentially low) turnout figures too. 

Portugal votes from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., electing 21 members. Portugal’s youth vote is skewing to the right.

Romania votes from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (but if you arrive before 10 p.m., you can actually vote until one minute before midnight). It elects 33 members of the EU Parliament. 

Slovenia votes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., electing nine members. The government sought to fight low turnout numbers by scheduling a triple referendum on assisted dying, cannabis use, and preferential voting in general elections at the same time as the EU vote.

Spain votes from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. As the fourth-largest EU country, it elects 61 members. Spain’s results will be important for the top jobs race that follows the election, with socialist Deputy Prime Minister Teresa Ribera campaigning to run EU green policy and the center-right standing firm behind von der Leyen’s bid for a second term. 

Spainish voter will elect 61 members. | Manaure Quintero/Getty Images

Sweden votes from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., electing 21 members.

Looking for more? Here’s what else POLITICO has on the individual member countries’ election races. 

List: What the EU election is actually about in each country

Polls: POLITICO’s Poll of Polls from across Europe

Infographics: European election: How to vote

Explainer: Your guide to the 2024 European election in 9 charts

Showtime. June 9 is election night

The four-day voting marathon reaches its peak on the evening of June 9, when countries compile early results. That’s when we will get the first sense of who the winners and losers are across Europe.

The epicenter of the EU election is in Brussels, inside the European Parliament hemicycle, with the chamber hosting election evening festivities and presenting a pan-European overview of results. 

Results will be featured on POLITICO and the EU’s official election results website. The EP is also hosting the big reveal on Europe by Satellite (EbS) and the European Parliament’s multimedia website

— At 6.15 p.m. a first set of national results comes out.

— At 8.15 p.m. Brussels time (or shortly after), officials are expected to reveal the first estimated composition of the new European Parliament. 

— At 11.15 p.m. is when the institution releases its first provisional election results, shortly after the polls in Italy close. These first results are based on exit polls.

— Von der Leyen as well as the other lead candidates are planning to address Europeans, in a series of speeches on stage in the hemicycle around midnight, POLITICO understands.

— At 1 a.m. Monday morning Parliament releases its last updated election results, after which you can get some sleep. 

Watch live: POLITICO goes live with a special video taping of its EU Confidential podcast at 8.30 p.m. on Sunday evening. 

Parliament tries to make its grand reveal as entertaining as possible, but a lot of the hustle and bustle plays out in the corridors and passerelles of the European Parliament in Brussels, where incoming MEPs and top leaders pop up to address national and international media, and political groups hold press conferences and watch parties.

Outside of Parliament’s premises, current Commission President Ursula von der Leyen — also the European People’s Party’s lead candidate — will be in Brussels, watching the results come in with her EPP party members at the Stanhope Hotel.

The Party of European Socialists will be throwing an afterparty at the Ginette Bar on Place Luxembourg, right opposite the European Parliament’s main entrance. The European Greens/European Free Alliance group is having its watch party inside the European Parliament with its lead candidate Bas Eickhout, as is the Party of the European Left and its lead candidate Walter Baier.

The liberal ALDE party will hold a watch party at its headquarters at the Rue d’Idalie in Brussels.

Our bet for the biggest party of the night? National Rally’s election night with lead candidate Jordan Bardella, which is taking place at a pavilion in a park near the Vincennes castle just east of Paris.

5 things to watch

1. Turnout

Political intrigue aside, a major challenge — if not the major one — for the European Union is getting its 450 million citizens to actually care. EU elections typically get less interest than national votes.

It’s a challenge that’s haunted the EU since … well, forever. Decreasing turnout plagued the bloc ever since it started holding European Parliament elections in 1979, with a historic low of 42.6 percent of eligible voters showing up in 2014. That trend was reversed last time, in 2019, when 50.7 percent of voters turned out. 

This year’s surge of far-right parties has observers believing it could push up the turnout number.

Analysis: Vote for me! Why turnout is the EU Parliament’s biggest election challenge

2. How the far right fares

Far-right parties are surging across Europe. Many parties with anti-immigrant, often anti-globalization and clearly Euroskeptic agendas are seeing support rise. 

The shift could send shockwaves through the EU machinery, as Parliament would take a much more critical role on EU-level legislating and spending.

In specific member countries, a far-right win would also have a knock-on effect on domestic politics. In France, the National Rally is looking to deal a blow to President Emmanuel Macron’s reputation in its bid for the French presidency in 2027. In Belgium, an expected far-right, separatist victory could put the country in deadlock as it weighs ways to reform its state structures.

Map: Europe’s rapidly rising right

3. If Ursula von der Leyen gets to 361 votes

In order to win another stint running the EU from the 13th floor of the Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters in Brussels, von der Leyen needs to overcome opposition — in competing political groups and even in her own, center-right European People’s Party (EPP) group. Results on June 9 will give a first indication of the battle she’ll face to rally support. 

Analyis: Von der Leyen needs 361 votes to keep her job. Good luck with that

4. How many seats from rebel parties are up for grabs

Several parties will be seeking new political allies after June 9. Those seats — for which political groups will have to bargain in the days and weeks after the vote — can drastically change the power in the hemicycle. 

In Hungary, the center-right TISZA party is hoping to win six seats. | Attila Kisbenedek/Getty Images

Some in the liberal Renew group are looking to boot out the Dutch People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) because it struck a deal with the far-right Geert Wilders to form the Netherlands’ next government. VVD is projected to win four seats.

On the right, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán exited the EPP group, and about 10 seats tied to his Fidesz party are up for grabs. The AfD got expelled from the far-right ID group and its lead candidate Maximilian Krah stepped down from the campaign, which means a whopping 16 seats are up for grabs if the party manages to make itself salonfähig again.

Then, there are the new parties — those running for EU seats for the first time. In Hungary, the center-right TISZA party is hoping to win six seats. In Romania, the Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR) could bring six new seats to ECR. In Spain, the left-wing Sumar party could get five seats. And in Italy, the Green-Left alliance AVS is projected to have four. (Seat projections date back to May 29.)

Election Playbook: 7 unknowns that will shape the next European Parliament

5. Events, dear boy, events

In politics, it’s the unknown unknowns that keep campaigners up at night. Every single national vote could be disrupted by an unexpected event derailing campaign plans and demanding political attention. 

In Germany, the death of a policeman over the weekend turned the spotlight on security issues (and off ongoing responses to floods in the southern part of the country). In France, a National Rally campaign ad seeking to court gendarmes voters could backfire. It’s these unexpected twists and turns that could swing polls in the last stretch. 

Then, there are those taking to the streets to swing the vote. The radical environmentalist group Extinction Rebellion is staging a series of protests, including a “classic and large-scale blocking action” in Brussels on Friday. Farmers already descended upon Brussels on Tuesday for a gathering similar to the wave of protests they’ve launched in Brussels in the past year.

List: All politics is local: What the EU election is actually about in each country

Election night hangover? It’s only starting

After the bonanza of ballots, the real fight starts: picking the European Union’s new leadership.

In those first few weeks after the election, national party members form coalitions with like-minded counterparts from across the EU, called political groups. These groups dominate EU power dynamics. 

In the race for the top jobs, the 27 EU heads of state and government must first reach a deal on the next presidents of the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament as well as the EU’s next foreign policy chief. EU leaders will meet over dinner for an informal EU summit in Brussels on June 17. The first formal European Council is scheduled for June 27-28.

The European Parliament’s fresh batch of members will have to hold their horses until July 16 for the first plenary session, where they’ll elect their president and start divvying up top jobs like vice presidencies and chairmanships.

Explainer: Top jobs timeline: What happens after the European election

List: The front-runners for the next European Commission

Sarah Wheaton, Louise Guillot and Aoife White contributed to this article.

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