Will independent candidates get your vote in the European Elections?
This week millions of citizens in 27 European Union states will be voting in the European elections, the the largest trans-national elections in history.
Thousands of candidates are hoping to win one of 736 MEP (Member of the European Parliament) seats in the increasingly important European Parliament, which represents over 500 million people.
The significance of the European Parliament cannot be overlooked. Some estimate that up to 80% of our laws – covering areas such as employment, immigration, crime, transport, trade, the environment – started life in Europe.
In Britain, the election issues have been overshadowed by the recent MP’s expenses scandal, which is causing a constitutional crisis and has seen a number of Members of Parliament forced to stand down.
The sleaze stories are widely expected to cost all three main parties, Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem’s, a large number of seats as people ‘vote with their feet’ for smaller parties, independent candidates or even extremist groups.
One such independent candidate is Filipino British migrant Gene Alcantara, who is running in the Greater London area, where eight seats are up for grabs.
Gene is standing for “clean and honest” politics and believes that by running as an independent candidate he can represent his constituents in London, not a political party.
He is also promising to work to “eradicate waste, fraud and mismanagement within the European Commission and the European Parliament by demanding transparent accountability and independent auditing of its finances”.
He is one of six independent candidates standing in London the others being: Brendan Patrick, Steven Cheung, Jan Jananayagam, Sohale Rahman and Haroon Saad.
Independent candidates receive little or no media coverage and do not benefit from Party Political Broadcasts shown on national Television.
Candidates like Gene have no party machine behind them and very little money for campaigning. He and his small campaign team, including family members such as his Wife Carmila Legarda-Alcantara, have had to do most of the legwork themselves.
Running independent of massive party funding means “long nights of stuffing envelopes and weekends pounding the streets”, says Gene.
Campaigning for the European Elections is prohibitively expensive, with the election deposit alone setting you back a whopping £5000. And that’s before you have printed a single leaflet.
Candidates are entitled a free Royal Mail drop to all 3.5 million registered voters in Greater London. However, the cost of printing and handling millions of leaflets makes it extremely difficult for an independent to benefit from this service.
Even obtaining a copy of the Electoral Register, which candidates are entitled to receive free of charge, from 33 different boroughs, and in almost as many formats, is a logistical nightmare.
In the European elections, unlike local and National counterparts, you have to deal with 33 different council boroughs, which takes up a lot of my time, says Gene.
Despite this, Gene is hopeful that the growing tide of public anger against the traditional party system and “members club” mentality in Parliament will persuade voters to elect fresh new candidates.
The Son of a migrant worker who came to the UK in his teens, Gene believes in fair treatment for all people, including immigrants, but also thinks Britain’s borders should be robust.
He also believes that the British people feel they are not being listened to by politicians.
“Two-thirds of people in Britain apparently do not know much about what goes on in Europe and feel left out and uninformed”, said Gene.
“Vote for me and I will ensure your views are represented in the European Parliament and you are kept updated.”
There is no doubt that we need honest representation in Europe, so it is important that all British and European Citizens exercise their right to vote next Thursday 4 June.
For a full list of candidates and parties visit:
The independent candidates for London in the European Parliament elections 2009 are holding a media briefing on Monday 1 June 2009: 10.30 am at: Camino, 3 Varnisher’s Yard, Regent Quarter, King’s Cross, London, N1 9FD.