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European election: Your questions answered before Kent and Medway voters go to polls to decide who represents south east in European Parliament

With less than a month to go before Kent voters head to the polls in the European election, the parties are stepping up their campaigns for a share of the spoils.

At stake are 73 seats across the United Kingdom - 10 of which are in the south east, the region that encompasses Kent and Medway - and the chance to represent the European Parliament for the next five years.

With Britain's future role in Europe and the question of a referendum dominating the domestic political debate, the results on May 25 are keenly anticipated.

Here we answer some of the key questions about the election - click on the logo below for more on the prospects for the parties and where they stand on the issue of an in-out referendum.

Who are we voting for in the election?

Answer: Our interests in the European Parliament are represented by MEPs. There are 751 from the 28 member states, of which 73 are in the UK and ten up for grabs in the south east.

What do MEPs do?

Answer: Popular mythology has it the our MEPs make up daft rules on bent bananas. In reality, their work is much more important and their power has grown over the years. After this election, they will decide for the first time who leads the European Commission. They can also veto the budget set by 28 member states. They vote on EU legislation in the same way that Westminster MPs vote on national legislation. About 75% of the laws adopted by the UK government has its origins in the EU. MEPs also take up concerns raised by electors.

How are MEPs elected?

Answer: The main difference is that unlike local council and Parliamentary elections, where individually named candidates are elected through a first-past-the-post system, the EU operates a form of proportional representation. Each party puts forward a list of candidates - known as a regional list - and you vote for one of these lists. The number of MEPs elected from each party to represent the region depends on the overall share of the vote received.

Ballot box. Stock pic
Ballot box. Stock pic

How can I find out which parties are standing and who the candidates are?

Answer: A full list of candidates is available by clicking here.

When is the election?

Answer: Polling day is Thursday, May 22 in the UK. Polling booths are open from 7am to 10pm. But results will not be declared until Sunday, May 25. In Kent, there will be local counts at every district and borough and a count at Medway. These results are fed into the regional counting centre at Southampton.

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