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The 2014 European Parliament elections will be ground-breaking in many ways – not least for the widespread use of social media and ‘primary’ elections to select candidates.

In the Netherlands, a small yet noteworthy intra-party campaign is currently taking place between two sitting MEPs. Marietje Schaake (@MarietjeSchaake) and Sophie in ‘t Veld (@SophieintVeld) are well-known for their prolific use of Twitter. Both are also mounting digital-led campaigns to persude members of their progressive liberal party Democrats 66 (D66) to back them as head of the party’s list (lijsttrekker) for next May’s election.

So how are they getting on? We’ve used several digital analysis tools – including Twitonomy – to crunch the data and find out how successful they have been in reaching supporters on Twitter and Facebook and via their campaign websites.

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Read our full election Insight (PDF)

Early elections in the Czech Republic have failed to resolve the country’s ongoing political crisis.

The polls, held more than four months after the fall of the centre-right government, saw the opposition Social Democrats remain the biggest single party in parliament, but with a much lower-than-expected share of the vote.

ANO 2011, a party led by the country’s second-richest person, finished in second place in its first ever general election, while the conservative Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which had led the previous coalition, finished fifth, losing more than two-thirds of its seats in parliament.

Coalition talks will now begin, although the task has been complicated by a split in the Social Democrats following their disappointing showing. The political crisis seems set to continue, with possibly a fragile coalition or a new caretaker administration taking office.

 

To frack or not to frack?

The high cost of energy for consumers and businesses means that the issue of shale gas – and the controversial ‘fracking’ technique used to extract the gas – will be one that could feature high on the agenda in next year’s European Parliament elections.

Across Europe, high electricity prices are putting household budgets under strain and putting an additional burden on manufacturing and services.

It is a common European challenge, and one on which candidates in the elections will have to take a position: is the future of energy renewables, nuclear, shale gas, or a combination of these? What about energy efficiency, or ‘green taxes’? Should priority be given to environmental protection or economic growth?

Shale gas has seen a boom in the United States, where the price of electricity is a quarter of that in Europe. Some argue that for a strong economy, Europe should follow the American model – investigate and exploit its own indigenous shale gas resources, reduce prices, and kick-start the recovery.

However, it is not that simple, and the political challenges are multiple.

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Read our full election Insight (PDF)

The Christian Social People’s Party of the Luxembourgian Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Juncker (pictured), has won the parliamentary elections.

The centre-right party, known as the CSV, took more than a third of the vote in the early elections, which were called after a spying and wire-tapping scandal forced the resignation of the previous government.

However, the big winners of the election were the Democratic Party (DP), a Liberal party that saw its share of the vote rise by more than a fifth, to 18.3%.

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David Harley gives his view on the issues facing Europe in the months ahead:

Let us take a moment to peer through the Brussels autumn mist and try to see what awaits us in next year’s promised ‘European Spring’.

What are likely to be the dominant issues and major concerns facing the European Union and the European electorate in 2014, beyond the institutional aspects? Foremost in many people’s minds will be the simple question of survival, how to make do financially and make ends meet for themselves and their families.

Similarly, 2014 will be  about the EU’s own survival, at least in its present form, or – to put it more diplomatically – a period of careful consolidation, gradual recovery and adjustment after overcoming the worst of the multiple crises of the past five years (economic, financial, banking and social, with the threat of further political crises still to come).

Above all, voters will want to get a sense from political leaders that they, together with the EU institutions, will be capable once and for all of fixing the European economy, preserving living standards and providing decent job prospects, especially for young people.

Further failure to successfully deal with these issues could irreparably damage public trust in the European project. However unfair it might be, the fact that the EU was neither primarily responsible for these crises, nor has the means alone to solve them, will fail to impress European public opinion.

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Austria’s parliamentary elections, held on 29 September, have produced no clear winner.

The two parties in the current ruling ‘grand coalition’ – the centre-left Social Democrats (SPÖ, led by the current Chancellor, Werner Faymann, pictured) and the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) – saw their representations fall but are still in a position to renew their pact.

However, the ÖVP is also exploring the possibility of a right-wing coalition, especially given that the Freedom Party (FPÖ) saw a leap in its representation, allowing it to strengthen its position as the third force in Austrian politics.

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The Party of European Socialists (PES) announced today the opening of a process of nominations to be the ‘common candidate’ of the Party for the European Parliament elections. This candidate would then be put forward as the PES candidate for the European Commission President.

In a statement, the PES said that the nominations process – which will last until the end of October – “is designed to meet the many demands for a more democratic and transparent way to designate key European Union posts. It is also hoped that it will increase interest in the election”.

According to the Party, each nominee needs to be supported by 15% of PES full member parties or organisations (at least one nominating the candidate, plus five other supporters). The PES Presidency will hold a meeting on 6 November to verify the process and announce the nominee(s), with the candidate being selected at the PES Election Congress in February 2014. The PES manifesto will be adopted at the same meeting.

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With regional, federal and European parliamentary elections all taking place on Sunday 25 May 2014, Belgians face many decisions that will have a big impact on the future of their own country, and of Europe.

The last federal parliamentary elections – held in June 2010 – saw a Flemish separatist party, the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), win in the north of the country, the Francophone Liberal Reformist Movement (MR) win in Brussels, and the Socialist Party (PS) win in Wallonia.

A world record-breaking 541 days passed before a new federal government could by formed (headed by Elio Di Rupo of the PS, and not featuring the N-VA). Further powers were devolved to the regions under a new state reform.

With the role of choice of European commissioner being seen in Belgium as equivalent to that of a federal minister, the post-election landscape may have to be defined a little faster this time than in 2010.

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Angela Merkel has won a larger-than-expected victory in Germany’s federal parliamentary elections, held on Sunday 22 September.

Her party, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and its Bavarian partners, the Christian Social Union (CSU) fell just short of an overall majority.

Mrs Merkel will therefore need a new coalition partner for her third term as Chancellor, as the share of the vote for Liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), with whom the CDU/CSU has governed for the past four years, fell below the five per cent threshold for entry into the Bundestag.

Despite the clear win for the centre-right CDU/CSU, the elections saw a slight shift towards the left, with the collapse of the FDP vote and the Social Democrats (SPD) gaining support.

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With just one week to go to the German Bundestag elections, substantive policy issues have not been very prominent in the election campaign.

The campaign has focused almost exclusively on domestic policy and the reforms to be made in several areas. The opposition Social Democrats (SPD) have tried to place social justice high on the agenda, whereas the governing Christian Democrats (CDU) have campaigned on the popularity of the Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

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