It has been proclaimed as the biggest democratic exercise in history but the European election is likely to be marred by a historically low turnout.
The European Commission has projected that only 34 per cent of the eligible electorate would vote, a dramatic drop from the 45 per cent turnout at the last election.
Officials have blamed a series of “distractions” – from local economic woes to fringe candidates dominating national campaigns – for sliding interest among the 375 million eligible voters.
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The forecast prompted a warning from Margot Wallstrom, the Commission’s vice-president for communication, that the credibility of the EU’s only democratic institution is at stake. “The legitimacy of your parliament, and that of the Union as a whole, is at stake,” she wrote in a recent internal document.
Voters in 27 countries will elect 736 MEPs over four days starting on Thursday, with the results due to be released on Sunday night.