...Continued from page 1

Less than half of other side of half–circle is composed by ultra–leftists, Socialists, Greens, and 'Liberals,' which may be the traditional ones. Without the ultra–leftists,photo: euro election posters the Socialists have 319 seats when combined with the Greens and the Liberals. Without the 'autres,' the right– wing has 318 seats, but the main body of the right–wing has 272 seats.

The graphic part of the election campaign.

Apparently this doesn't mean a lot because everything in Strasbourg is negotiable and this is what everybody does in any combination necessary. All the same, you have to give the whole ball of wax credit for being democratic because of the small parties that are hostile to the very parliament that their deputies sit in.

The various European institutions have formidable means of making themselves known, but national politicians and news organs manage to keep the lid on. While the deputies are in Strasbourg, the management sits in Brussels, and the confusion about who does what where, plays into national hands.

Making pan–European regulations is an incredibly dull business, until 'they' try to force camembert makers to use pasteurized milk. Then it is 'Brussels' that is trying to wreck a hallowed French custom. But if Brittany's citizens want the language taught in local schools, then they have to go over Paris' head to Brussels – which supports regionalism.

So there is a Jekyll and Hyde relationship between the European Union and its citizenry as well as jittery relations between Brussels and national governments. Governments have the upper hand because they're more aware of the game and how it's played, but sometimes citizens can play off their governors against the Eurocrats.

It is possible that governments would rather that their citizens remain in the dark – 60 percent of all new laws and regulations affecting everyday life are now decided by the European Union. The 78 new French deputies in Strasbourg might be more influential in the long run than the 500–odd deputies in the National Assembly.

Paris Euro Results

Until Saturday I had no idea that all of France and its offshore departments and territories had been reduced to six electoral districts. Luckily one of them has turned out to be the Ile–de–France. It is the only intact region that is also a voting district.

All of the others are 'super' districts. Le Parisien sniffs at the absurd thought of putting Bordeaux together with Montpellier, or Corsica with Grenoble – but then Corsica isn't considered to be an offshore territory.

With 42.8 percent of registered voters casting ballots, the Socialists won 31 seats in the European parliament. They increased their 1999 score by nine seats, and they increased their share of the popular vote by almost eight percent, to arrive at 29.5 percent on Sunday.

Even though the result was supposed to be 'sanction' leveled at the UMP party, it too increased its share enough to elect 17 deputies. It not only didn't halt the advance of the Socialists, but it failed utterly to destroy its nominal ally, François Bayrou's UDF party. This one swooped up 12 percent of the vote allowing it 11 seats, two more than in 1999. Two other right–wing but anti–European parties siphoned off some votes from the UMP, grabbing a total of three seats.

The Communists and Les Verts saw their scores dwindle, with the former dropping from six seats to two and the latter from nine seats to six. The extreme–left slipped far under the five percent barrier, and obtained no seats. Europe–wide, Les Verts did less than they expected to.

Jean–Marie Le Pen used most of his breath during the short campaign complaining about how the electoral rules were rigged against the Front National. This party captured 9.8 percent of the vote, good for seven seats, one reserved for Marine Le Pen.

Euro Non–Voters

The first result to be announced, sometimes before polls closed on Sunday, were the numbers of people who abstained. Given the campaign that we had, not going to the polls was no surprise. Slovakia won this with 20 percent of registered voters casting ballots and was closely followed by Poland where 21.2 percent went to the polls.

At the other end, new community members Malta with 82.4 percent of voters at the polling stations and Cyprus with 71.2 percent going to the polls led all but Italy, where 73.5 percent of registered voters turned out to be mostly against Silvio Berlousconi.

The French press gives the opposite figures, choosing to dwell on how many didn't vote rather than how many did. In France 59.9 or 57.2 percent of registered voters did not bother with the polls, 3.3 percent cast blank ballots, and 17,169,034 cast valid ballots.

Polling Station 14–55

In mild weather early Sunday afternoon my polling station was a ten minute slow walk from where I live. There was one person outside who may have been its security, but was probably just getting some air after watching not many people not voting much.

I presented my voting card and was told that my station was further along in the room in the gloomy municipal building. A–5–sized sheets of paper had been printed by the political groups and were lying in piles on long tables. There were 28 of these 'lists' in all.

At the right station my card was compared to my Carte de Sejour and to the master list. I was given a tiny blue envelopephoto: sundown, rue daguerre and directed to the polling booths, which were like seaside changing tents. I should have picked up one of each of the 28 'ballots' and discarded 27 of them in the booth, but I chose only the one I wanted to avoid confusion. There was a sign saying nothing should be written on the ballot.

Without bothering to close the curtains, I stuffed the lone ballot into the envelope. It was a tight fit. Then I returned to the table with the clear plexi ballot box. After another check to make sure I was still who I was, I was allowed to tip the envelope into the ballot box, which was far from half–full. Then I needed to remind the officials that they should stamp my voter card.

The whole thing took four minutes or less. One voter came out when I went in and another came in while I was leaving. For photo purposes I went to another polling station where I've voted in the past, and got a shot of the 28 advertising panels. It was no bother not photographing any voters.

Later, watching the early results on TV, I was happy to see that my guy and his 'list' won. He and his 'list' got 684,993 votes. It was worth going to vote even if I didn't get invited to the victory party.

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