EU election turnout seen at 49 pct-poll
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - An embarrassing record low turnout in June's European elections could be avoided after an opinion poll to published on Wednesday showed nearly half of the 375 million eligible electorate may cast their vote.
"The poll points to a 49 percent turnout, up from 34 percent in the previous Eurobarometer survey (January and February)," the poll, conducted by TNS on behalf of the European Parliament, showed.
"43 percent of respondents said they were certain to vote and a further 6 percent said they were very likely to do so. 12 percent seem certain not to vote, down from 19 percent at the start of the year."
A spate of previous polls predicted a worse turnout than the record low of 45.5 percent in the last EU assembly elections in 2004, painting a damning picture of the 27-nation bloc among by its 500 million population.
The threat that a poor turnout during the June 4-7 election could prompt a swing towards non-mainstream parties, such as far-right and leftist groups, forced politicians to ramp up their campaigns in recent weeks with widespread rallies, television, radio and newspaper advertisements.
"The May poll found that 53 percent of Europeans were interested in the elections, and 46 percent were not. At the start of the year, 44 percent were interested and 53 percent were not," the poll -- carried out during May 4 to 15 -- said.
Ireland is seen as having the highest turnout with 66 percent of its voters saying they would definitely vote and 64 percent of Belgians said they would follow suit.
A 16 percent turnout is predicted in Slovakia and 24 percent in the Czech Republic, despite the fact that Prague currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.
Irish voters, who rejected the bloc's Lisbon reform treaty last June, also topped the table for support of the EU with 72 percent showing they were "interested" in the elections.
The Irish are expected to hold a second plebiscite later this year on the treaty to streamline decision-making in the bloc including giving the European Parliament a greater say.
The EU assembly -- based in Brussels and the French city of Strasbourg -- currently shares decision making with national governments on around 80 percent of EU legislation such as the environment, financial regulation and budget matters.
"As to campaign issues, unemployment is still the top concern for 57 percent of Europeans, followed by economic growth at 45 percent," the poll said.
Some analysts and commentators see the European elections as a referendum on how Brussels has dealt with the worst financial crisis in nearly 80 years and a litmus test on how national governments might fare in future general elections, notably in Britain and Germany.
(For details on the TNS/European Parliament opinion poll, click on: here)
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