A Primer on Europe’s Parliamentary Elections

World
Wed, 8 May 2019 17:26 GMT
Elections to take place May 23-26, giving all adult EU citizens opportunity to select who represents them in parliament Europe’s parliamentary elections will take place May 23-26, giving all adult citizens of the European Union the opportunity to choose...
A Primer on Europe’s Parliamentary Elections

Elections to take place May 23-26, giving all adult EU citizens opportunity to select who represents them in parliament

Europe’s parliamentary elections will take place May 23-26, giving all adult citizens of the European Union the opportunity to choose who will represent them.

Around 374 million EU citizens are eligible to vote, making the elections the biggest democratic contest outside India.

The first European Parliament (EP) elections took place in 1979 and the turnout was 62%. However, it decreased to 42% in 2014.

 

What are the European Parliament elections?

Every five years, EU citizens choose the members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who will represent them in the EP, the directly elected institution which defends their interests in the EU decision-making process.

The EP election is based on the national laws of the member states. The voting age is 16 in Austria and Malta and 18 in the other 26 member states.

In Belgium, Greece, Bulgaria, Luxembourg and the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus, participation in elections is compulsory according to their national laws.

 

What does the EP actually do?

The EP is the legislative arm of the EU, and MEPs can shape and decide on new legislation, vote on new trade agreements, approve the EU budget and scrutinize EU institutions and how citizens’ tax money is spent as well as launch investigations into specific issues.

One week per month, an EP plenary session is held in the French city of Strasbourg.

However, the EP secretariat is based in the Kirchberg quarter of Luxembourg city in southern Luxembourg.

Around 8,000 people serve for the EP and political groups.

 

Which political groups run in the elections?

There are currently eight political groups in the EP, spanning far-right to radical left.

The MEPs sit in political groups based on their political affiliation. The groups consist of parties from different countries which share a similar ideology.

The largest group is the European People’s Party (EPP), which won 221 seats in the last election.

Each group nominates a lead candidate who will represent them in the EP.

Manfred Weber is the lead candidate for the EPP. Frans Timmermans is the lead candidate for the center-left Party of European Socialists. Frans Timmermans is vice-president of the European Commission.

Jan Zahradil is the lead candidate for the conservative Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe.

Guy Verhofstadt is the lead candidate for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe. Verhofstadt was prime minister of Belgium from 1999 to 2008.

Other groups are the European United Left/Nordic Green Left, European Greens/European Free Alliance, Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy and Europe of Nations and Freedom.

 

How are the allocation of seats determined?

The allocation of seats is based on European treaties. It takes into account the size of the population of each country, with smaller countries getting more seats than strict proportionality would imply. Currently, the number of MEPs ranges from six for Malta, Luxembourg and Cyprus to 96 for Germany.

There are currently 751 seats at the EP. After Brexit, the size of the EP will be reduced to 705 with the departure of the 73 British members. Of the 73 seats vacated by the U.K. leaving the EU, 27 seats will be re-allocated to better reflect the principle of degressive proportionality.

A candidate party must get 5% of the votes in the elections held in its country in order to send representatives to the EP. This kind of proportional representation enables both larger and smaller political parties to have the chance to be represented in the EP.

The MEPs receive approximately €12,000 (nearly $13,450) per month.

 

How does the EP affect the election of the EU Commission president?

In 2014, the candidate of the largest group was elected as EU Commission president. It is expected that a similar process will be implemented in this election. This process is called “Spitzenkandidat”.

The German term traditionally refers to the lead candidate of a party. It means that the largest group is advantageous in determining the commission president.

 

 

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