Your guide to Europe's four-day election marathon
A handy overview to Europe’s complicated parliamentary vote.Brussels -- The European Union parliament has long had the image of being a gravy-train but an EU election is no picnic.
The voting system is as arcane as the 27-nation EU is widespread. The election for the 736 lawmakers takes four days and there will be weeks of bargaining afterwards to settle the assembly's top jobs.
Voting starts on Thursday in Britain and the Netherlands. Ireland holds its election on the following day, the Czech Republic on June 5 and 6, and Slovakia Latvia, Malta and Cyprus vote on June 6.
France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the other 15 countries in the EU all hold their elections on the Sunday. The first reliable forecasts will come out about 2000 GMT on the night of June 7.
Each country uses its own preferred voting system.
While any EU citizen can stand as a candidate or vote in any EU country where he or she is resident and registered on the electoral list, rules such as the minimum age for voting changes from country to country.
There were 785 deputies in the old assembly. The Treaty of Nice ordered the cutback but this could be only temporary. If the Treaty of Lisbon is ever ratified by every member, the number will go up again to 754.
Each country's representation is roughly in line with its population. Malta, the smallest member, has five deputies. Germany, the biggest, has 99. The other main powers -- Britain, France and Italy -- have 72 each, while Poland and Spain elect 50 each.
One of the big unknowns is how the extra 18 deputies will be shared out, if the Lisbon reform treaty comes into force.
The first meeting of the new assembly will be on July 14 to 16 in Strasbourg.
It will have to elect a new parliament president to take charge of the assembly for the first half of its five-year term.
As the centre-right bloc is expected to gain the upper hand in the election, their candidates, former Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek, and Italian Euro Deputy Mario Mauro, a close ally of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, are favourites.
One of their first duties will also be to approve the European Commission president nominated by an EU summit at the end of June. Jose Manuel Barroso, the former Portuguese prime minister, is widely expected to get a second term.