In the past four days, over forty percent of the electorate in the twenty-five European Union member states went to the polls to elect new members to the European Parliament. Just a week before the elections, the EU commissioner for enlargement Gunter Verheugen warned voter apathy could result in the election of anti-EU factions: "I must say that I'm really worried about the fact that everywhere low turn out can produce strange results. There is the danger that even anti-European formations and organisations could win sufficient support to have representatives in the European Parliament and that is certainly not in the interest of the majority of the people."
And in light of the embarrassingly low voter turnout over the weekend, Mr Verheugen was right. Eurosceptics have clearly won the elections. As was the case in the Czech Republic where the right-of-centre opposition Civic Democrats won 30 percent of the vote and the largely unreconstructed opposition Communists came in second with 20.3 percent. The strongly pro-EU European Democrats in coalition with the Independents won 11 percent, followed by the junior coalition partner, the Christian Democrats, who received 9.6 percent of the vote. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla's senior ruling coalition party, the Social Democratic Party, finished in fifth place with just 8.8 percent, while the Independents grouped around former TV magnate Vladimir Zelezny won 8.5 percent of the vote.
Elections to the European Parliament
Over four days from 10th to 13th June voters in the 25 member countries of the European Union went to the polls in elections to the European Parliament.
These were the Czech Republic's first ever European elections. In the Czech republic voting took place over two days, starting at 14:00 on Friday and ending at 14:00 on Saturday. Counting could only begin once voting had ended in all member countries, i.e. at 22:00 on Sunday.
The Czech republic has 24 of the 732 seats in the European Parliament. For comparison, the smallest EU country, Malta, has 5 seats, and the largest, Germany, has 99; Belgium, Hungary, Portugal and Greece have the same number of seats as the Czech republic.
Any EU citizen over the age of 18 and resident in the Czech republic is entitled to vote. In order to stand as a candidate, he or she must be over 21 and resident in the Czech republic for at least 45 days.
Political parties, movements and coalitions registered in the Czech republic are entitled to field candidates. A total of 31 parties and groupings have put forward candidates.
In order to be represented in the European Parliament a party or movement needs to win at least 5% of the total number of valid votes cast in the Czech republic.