Between 4 and 7 June, around 400 million citizens in the 27 member states of the European Union (EU) will elect 736 new members of the European parliament in Strasbourg in what will be the second biggest democratic process in the world after the recent elections in India. Turnout in 2004 was 45.6 per cent of the electorate with a high in Belgium of 90.8 per cent and a low in Slovakia of 16.9 per cent. All the EU institutions have been trying to raise interest levels and, after big gains by eurosceptic parties in 2004, they have an undeclared aim of bringing out the passive supporters of the European ideal.
Italy votes on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 June; all EU citizens living in Italy have the right to vote but must have registered to do so. There are a total of 72 seats in five constituencies (northwest, northeast, centre, south and the islands) to be filled by proportional representation. A new Italian law means that parties have to poll more than four per cent of the vote in order to have a member of the European parliament (MEP) elected.
Polls suggest that the combined communist parties Rifondazione Comunista and Partito dei Comunisti Italiani, running under the banner Rifondazione Comunisti Italiani, are on the threshold while the other left-wing grouping, Sinistra e Libert