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EU sets May 26 for 2019 EU parliament election

European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 12, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The next elections to the European Parliament will take place in most countries on May 26, 2019, EU governments agreed on Tuesday.

The date, favoured by the parliament itself, is subject to final approvals but is unlikely to be altered. Legally, the five-yearly vote should have been held on June 9 but many states objected as that falls during the Pentecost holiday weekend.

May 26 is a Sunday and so as some countries traditionally vote on other days of the week the election is formally scheduled for May 23-26, 2019.

That shortens by two weeks any leeway for Britain to delay its scheduled March 29 departure from the bloc while still being out before the EU election. Lawmakers and governments have said that holding the elections while Britain was still formally an EU member would be legally complex, assuming that London would not itself want to organise a vote on the eve of Brexit.

Britain will lose its 73 seats in the chamber, with about a third of them being reallocated to other countries.

European political groups are already preparing for the EU election, with mainstream parties concerned that, as in the 2014 vote, turnout may remain low and relative support may grow for politicians hostile to the European Union.

Parliamentary groups are also pressing governments to accept that the top candidate of the winning party be appointed to run the European Commission, the EU executive, in succession to Jean-Claude Juncker. National leaders are resisting that push, insisting that they should be free to choose whomever they wish.

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; @macdonaldrtr; Editing by Susan Fenton