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European Parliament elections kick off in Britain, strained relations with EU likely to continue

English.news.cn   2014-05-23 05:49:10

ONDON, May 22 (Xinhua) -- Elections to the European Parliament (EP) kicked off Thursday in Britain as millions of Britons flocked to polling stations to decide who can represent them in the European legislature.

As the Eurosceptic political party UK Independence Party (UKIP) has topped most opinion polls in Britain in recent months, political forecasters predicted that the right-wing party is likely to be the biggest winner in the elections.

David Cutts, a British party politics scholar at the University of Bath, attributed the rise of UKIP to its growing appeal to the "left behind" voters.

"UKIP has been able to broaden its appeal to those voters 'left behind' and alarmed by the extent of social and economic change - concerns about European immigration - while retaining their mainstream political legitimacy on the European issue," he said.

Analysts also pointed to a growing trend of euroscepticism across European countries, which reflected a surge of right-wing politics throughout the continent.

"It's not just in Britain that this is an issue. We've seen across Europe, anti-European or Euro-sceptic parties growing in their support," said Joe Twyman, director of political and social research at YouGov, a leading British polling firm.

With growing skepticism over the island nation's integration with Europe, the Britain-EU relations are predicted to continue to be strained in the coming years.

"From the beginning Britain has had an uneasy relationship with European integration. Some people talk about an 'awkward partner', some people talk about the politics of semi-detachment, but there has been this reluctance to sign up for political union," said Dr Susan Milner, a political scientist specializing in European politics at the University of Bath.

Voters were also particularly divided over the prospect of Britain-EU relations.

"I don't like anything to do with Europe," said A. Ladsky, an 87-year-old retired lawyer who supported the UKIP, adding that "I'd like to get rid of Europe and get out of Europe. We are big enough to stand on our own feet. We don't need Europe. Europe needs us more than we need them."

Kenneth Alaka, a 53-year-old social worker, said he has always voted for the Labor Party since 1997 because they carried out the reforms which he needed, particularly the national minimum wage policy.

Unlike Ladsky, Alaka is in favor of more British integration into Europe, warning that "Britain's withdrawal from the European Union will be a disaster."

"You can't withdraw from Europe now. Europe is good for the British economy and business. There is a big market in Europe. It's good for Britain to be in Europe and be a leader in Europe," he said.

Dozens of political parties, including the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats, the Labor Party and the UKIP, were vying for a bigger share of the vote in Britain on Thursday.

A total of 73 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were up for grabs in the country based on the proportional representation voting mechanism, with citizens being asked to vote for a party rather than an individual.

The elections, conducted in 12 electoral regions across Britain, employ the single transferable vote system in Northern Ireland and the regional party list proportional representation system in the rest of the country.

Voters are asked to cast their ballots between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. at one of the polling stations nearest to them.

Results of the elections are scheduled to be announced on Sunday, when voting is closed across the 28 member states of the European Union.

Britain and the Netherlands are the first two countries to start the European Parliament elections this year.

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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