Elections to the European Parliament take place every five years by universal adult suffrage, and with more than 400 million people eligible to vote, it is considered the second largest democratic elections in the world.
Until 2019, 751 MEPs were elected to the European Parliament, which has been directly elected since 1979. Since the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU in 2020, the number of MEPs, including the president, has been 705. No other EU institution is directly elected, with the Council of the European Union and the European Council being only indirectly legitimated through national elections. While European political parties have the right to campaign EU-wide for the European elections, campaigns still take place through national election campaigns, advertising national delegates from national parties.
The allocation of seats to each member state is based on the principle of degressive proportionality, so that, while the size of the population of each country is taken into account, smaller states elect more MEPs than is proportional to their populations. As the numbers of MEPs to be elected by each country have arisen from treaty negotiations, there is no precise formula for the apportionment of seats among member states. No change in this configuration can occur without the unanimous consent of all governments.
|European Parliament Apportionment changes between the Treaty of Nice and the Treaty of Lisbon|
(as calculated for purposes of the 2009 European Elections)
Italicised countries are divided into sub-national constituencies.
- The system must be a form of proportional representation, under either the party list or the single transferable vote system.
- The electoral area may be subdivided if this will not generally affect the proportional nature of the electoral system.
Voting difference by country
Most of the member states of the European Union elect their MEPs with a single constituency covering the entire state, using party-list proportional representation. There is however a great variety of electoral procedures: some countries use a highest averages method of proportional representation, some use the largest remainder method, some open lists and others closed. In addition, the method of calculating the quota and the election threshold vary from country to country. Countries with multiple constituencies are:
- Belgium is split into 3 constituencies: the Dutch-speaking electoral college, the French-speaking electoral college, and the German-speaking electoral college. The first two of these elect their MEPs using party list PR, but the German-speaking constituency only has 1 member, who is therefore not elected by a proportional method.
- Republic of Ireland is split into three constituencies and uses the Single transferable vote.
- The United Kingdom, historically up until its exit from the Union, was split into constituencies representing Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and each of the regions of England. Northern Ireland used the single transferable vote while the other constituencies used party lists.
Germany, Italy and Poland use a different system, whereby parties are awarded seats based on their nationwide vote as in all of the states that elect members from a single constituency; these seats are given to the candidates on regional lists. With the number of seats for each party known, these are given to the candidates on the regional lists based on the number of votes from each region towards the party's nationwide total, awarded proportionally to the regions. These subdivisions are not strictly constituencies, as they do not decide how many seats each party is awarded, but are districts that the members represent once elected. The number of members for each region is decided dynamically after the election, and depends on voter turnout in each region. A region with high turnout will result in more votes for the parties there, which will result in a greater number of MEPs elected for that region.
The European Union has a multi-party system involving a number of ideologically diverse Europarties. As no one Europarty has ever gained power alone, their affiliated parliamentary groups must work with each other to pass legislation. Since no pan-European government is formed as a result of the European elections, long-term coalitions have never occurred.
Europarties have the exclusive right to campaign for the European elections; their parliamentary groups are strictly forbidden to campaign and to spend funds on any campaign-related activity. Campaign activities differ per country since national elections for European Parliament representatives are governed by national laws. For instance, a European party can buy unlimited advertising airtime in Estonia while it is barred from any form of paid advertising in Sweden.
For the 2014 EP election, Europarties decided to put forward a candidate for President of the European Commission. Each candidate led the pan-European campaign of the Europarty. While no legal obligation exists to force the European Council to propose the candidate of the strongest party to the EP, it was assumed that the Council would have no other choice than to accept the voters' decision. Therefore, following the victory of the European People's Party in the 2014 EP election, its lead candidate Jean-Claude Juncker was elected President of the European Commission.
The two major parties are the centre-right European People's Party and the centre-left Party of European Socialists. They form the two largest groups, (called EPP and S&D respectively) along with other smaller parties. There are numerous other groups, including communists, greens, regionalists, conservatives, liberals and eurosceptics. Together they form the seven recognised groups in the parliament. MEPs that are not members of groups are known as non-inscrits.
A 1980 analysis by Karlheinz Reif and Hermann Schmitt concluded that European elections were fought on national issues and used by voters to punish their governments mid-term, making European Parliament elections de facto national elections of second rank. This phenomenon is also referred to by some experts as the "punishment traps," wherein voters use the European Parliament elections and other European integration referendums as punishment for governments on account of bad economic performance. There is also a study that showed how voters tend to choose candidates of a party at the European level if it has a history of advancing specific issues that they care about. This is related to the second theory that explains voter behavior and it involves the so-called attitude voting in which voters are assumed to be acting on the basis of their attitude towards the European integration. This is analogous to the American two-party system in the sense that voting on issues and legislation in the Parliament only requires a yes or no vote, which means voter vote for options or candidates that are close to their ideals.
Turnout had constantly fallen in every EU election from 1979 until 2014. The 2019 election, however, saw turnout increase to its highest level since 1994, at 51%. In 2009, the overall turnout was at 43%, down from 45.5% in 2004. In Britain the turnout was just 34.3%, down from 38% in 2004. Despite falling below 50% between 1999 and 2014, turnout was not as low as that of the US Midterm elections, which usually falls below 40%. However, the comparison with the US voter turnout is hampered due to the fact that the US President is elected in separate and direct elections (presidential system), whereas the President of the European Commission is elected by the European Parliament (parliamentary system), giving the European Parliament elections considerable weight. Some, such as former President of the European Parliament, Pat Cox, have also noted that turnout in the 1999 election was higher than the previous US presidential election. German MEP Jo Leinen has suggested that EU parties name their top candidate for the position of President of the European Commission in order to increase turnout. This happened for the 2014 election, with EPP candidate Jean Claude Juncker ultimately selected, after the EPP won the most seats overall.
|List of elections (excluding by-elections)|
|List of European Parliament elections by state|
Historical percentage results in union-wide elections of the three major groups by region.
Results by member state
By-elections in the United Kingdom
As of 2011 reforms by Liberal Democrat MEP Andrew Duff are being considered by Parliament, which are seen as the most significant overhaul of the electoral system since elections began. 25 extra MEPs would be added on a transnational European list with its candidates being selected by the European party groups rather than national member parties. The candidate lists would have to represent a third of member states and are seen as a way to personalise and dramatise the elections to re-engage an apathetic electorate. Duff sees the next Commission President possibly coming from the transnational list. Duff's proposals also include a single electoral roll, regular reapportioning of seats, one set of immunity rules and the holding of elections in May rather than June. However, due to a waning of support and possible opposition from member states, Duff has taken the proposal back to committee to get broader support before putting them before the plenary in autumn 2011.
|2004||EPP||José Manuel Barroso||EPP|
|2009||EPP||José Manuel Barroso||EPP|
The third Delors Commission had a short mandate, to bring the terms of the Commission in line with that of the Parliament. Under the European Constitution the European Council would have to take into account the results of the latest European elections and, furthermore, the Parliament would ceremonially "elect", rather than simply approve, the Council's proposed candidate. This was taken as the parliament's cue to have its parties run with candidates for the President of the European Commission with the candidate of the winning party being proposed by the Council.
This was partly put into practice in 2004 when the European Council selected a candidate from the political party that won that year's election. However at that time only one party had run with a specific candidate: the European Green Party, who had the first true pan-European political party with a common campaign, put forward Daniel Cohn-Bendit. However the fractious nature of the other political parties led to no other candidates, the People's Party only mentioned four or five people they'd like to be President. The Constitution failed ratification but these amendments have been carried over to the Treaty of Lisbon, which came into force in 2009.
There are plans to strengthen the European political parties in order for them to propose candidates for the 2009 election. The European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party have already indicated, in their October 2007 congress, their intention for forward a candidate for the post as part of a common campaign. They failed to do so however the European People's Party did select Barroso as their candidate and, as the largest party, Barroso's term was renewed. The Socialists, disappointed at the 2009 election, agreed to put forward a candidate for Commission President at all subsequent elections. There is a campaign within that party to have open primaries for said candidate.
In February 2008, President Barroso admitted there was a problem in legitimacy and that, despite having the same legitimacy as Prime Ministers in theory, in practice it was not the case. The low turnout creates a problem for the President's legitimacy, with the lack of a "European political sphere", but analysis claim that if citizens were voting for a list of candidates for the post of president, turn out would be much higher than that seen in recent years.
With the Lisbon Treaty now in-force, Europarties are obliged from now-on to put forward a candidate for President of the European Commission; each Presidential candidate will, in fact, lead the pan-European campaign of the Europarty.
The President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek proposed in 2010 that Commissioners be directly elected, by member states placing their candidate at the top of their voting lists in European elections. That would give them individually, and the body as a whole, a democratic mandate.
Each Member State has different rules determining who can vote for and run as the European Parliamentary candidates. In Spain v United Kingdom, the European Court of Justice held that member states are permitted to extend the franchise to non-EU citizens.
Every EU citizen residing in an EU country of which he/she is not a national has the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in European Parliamentary elections in his/her country of residence, under the same conditions as nationals of that country - this right is enshrined in Article 39 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. In addition, the right to vote is included in Articles 20(1) and 22(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. To this extent all EU countries keep electoral registers containing the names of all eligible voters in the specific region, to which eligible newcomers to the area can apply at any time to have their names added. EU citizens are then eligible to vote for the duration of their stay in that country.
It is therefore possible for a person to have the choice of voting in more than one EU member state. For example, a Portuguese citizen who studies at university in France and lives at home outside term-time in the family home in the Netherlands has the option of voting in the European Parliamentary election in France, Portugal or the Netherlands. In this scenario, although the Portuguese citizen qualifies to vote in three EU member states, he/she is only permitted to cast one vote in one of the member states.
|Member state||Eligible voters||Eligible candidates|
- "EU elections 2019: Country-by-country full results". Euronews. 25 May 2019. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
- "Euro election country-by-country". BBC News. 7 June 2009. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
- "Redistribution of seats in the European Parliament after Brexit". European Parliament. 31 January 2020. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
- European Parliament: Welcome europarl.europa.eu
- "European political parties". European Parliament.
- The European Parliament: electoral procedures europarl.europa.eu
- The election of members of the European Parliament European Navigator
- "Composition of the European Parliament with a view to the 2014 elections". Europa.eu. 13 March 2013. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
- The European Elections europarl.europa.eu
- Maier, Michaela; Stromback, Jesper; Kaid, Lynda (2011). Political Communication in European Parliamentary Elections. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 91. ISBN 9781409411321.
- "Jean-Claude Juncker: Experience. Solidarity. Future". European People's Party.
- MEPs by Member State and political group – sixth parliamentary term europarl.europa.eu
- Reif, K. and Schmitt, H. (1980) ‘Nine Second-Order National Elections: A Conceptual Framework for the Analysis of European Election Results’. European Journal of Political Research, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 3–45.
- Reichert, Fabian (2012). You Vote What You Read?. Norderstedt: GRIN Verlag. p. 4. ISBN 9783656179412.
- Hölting, Jan (2016). Salience-Based Voter-Party Congruence in the EU. Norderstedt: GRIN Verlag. p. 2. ISBN 9783668420861.
- Mulvey, Stephen (21 November 2003) The EU's democratic challenge BBC News
- Q&A: European elections, BBC News 21 July 2004
- Spongenberg, Helena (26 February 2007). "EU wants to dress up 2009 elections on TV". EU Observer. Retrieved 8 July 2007.
- Palmer, John (10 January 2007). "Size shouldn't matter". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 June 2007.
- Mahony, Honor (27 June 2007). "European politics to get more political". EU Observer. Retrieved 28 June 2007.
- Europe Politique: Parlement européen (in French)
- Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Sweden and, until 2020, United Kingdom
- Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Netherlands
- Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain
- Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia
- "Turnout | 2019 European election results | European Parliament". 2019 European election results | European Parliament. 4 November 2019. Archived from the original on 23 July 2019. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
- "Turnout 2014 - European Parliament". Results-elections2014.eu. 25 May 2014. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- "Euroskeptics are a bigger presence in the European Parliament than in past". Pew Research Center. 22 May 2019. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
- Mahony, Honor (7 July 2011) MEPs put off controversial electoral reform, EU Observer
- Hughes, Kirsty. "Nearing Compromise as Convention goes into Final Week?" (PDF). EPIN. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 February 2008. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
- "European Greens Found European Greens". Deutsche Welle. 23 February 2004. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
- "The EP elections: Deepening the democratic deficit". Euractiv. 16 June 2004. Archived from the original on 18 October 2007. Retrieved 27 July 2007.
- "Leadership of the EU". Federal Union. Archived from the original on 9 June 2007. Retrieved 27 August 2007.
- "Resolution ELDR Congress in Berlin 18–19 October 2007". ELDR party. 24 October 2007. Retrieved 4 January 2008.[dead link]
- Phillips, Leigh (12 August 2010). "Socialists want US-style primaries for commission president candidate". EU Observer. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
- Mahony, Honor (28 February 2008). "Barroso admits legitimacy problem for commission president post". EU Observer. Retrieved 29 February 2008.
- Mahony, Honor (23 March 2010) EP president suggests election of future EU commissioners, EU Observer
- "Judgment of the European Court of Justice of 12 September 2006, Case C-145/04, Kingdom of Spain v United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
- "Wahlen - Europawahlen". BM.I. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- "Les conditions d'électorat pour les différentes élections - Elections européennes et régionales 2009". Ibz.rrn.fgov.be. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- "Le droit de vote des Belges résidant dans l'Union européenne et des citoyens européens résidant en Belgique, pour l'élection du Parlement Européen - Elections européennes et r". Ibz.rrn.fgov.be. 19 December 2008. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- "L'obligation de vote - Elections européennes et régionales 2009". Ibz.rrn.fgov.be. 16 December 2008. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- "La candidature pour les différentes élections - Elections européennes et régionales 2009". Ibz.rrn.fgov.be. 18 December 2008. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- "ELECTION CODE Promulgated, State Gazette No. 9/28.01.2011" (PDF). Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- The Bulgarian Election Code, (2011), as amended by Act to Amend and Supplement the Election Code (2011)
- "Act to Amend and Supplement the Election Code (2011)". Legislationline.org. 2 June 2011. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- "Republic of Croatia European Parliamentary Elections Act, Article 4 (Zakon o izborima zastupnika iz RH u Europski parlament, Članak 4)". Sabor.hr. Archived from the original on 9 November 2013. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- "Republic of Croatia European Parliamentary Elections Act, Article 5 (Zakon o izborima zastupnika iz RH u Europski parlament, Članak 5)". Sabor.hr. Archived from the original on 9 November 2013. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- "Information for citizens of other EU member states on voting in the European Parliament elections in the Czech Republic - Ministry of the interior of the Czech Republic". Mvcr.cz. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- "European Parliament elections - valg.sum.dk". archive.is. 16 July 2012. Archived from the original on 16 July 2012.
- "Right to vote". Vvk.ee. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- "Right to Vote and Compilation of the Voting Rights". Archived from the original on 9 November 2013.
- "Eligibility and Nomination of Candidates". Archived from the original on 9 November 2013.
- "Service-Public.fr (Élections : Français domicilié à l'étranger)". Vosdroits.service-public.fr. Archived from the original on 24 July 2013. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- "Élections : droit de vote d'un citoyen européen - Service-public.fr". Vosdroits.service-public.fr. Archived from the original on 7 August 2013. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- "Greek MPs approve end to bonus seats, lower voting age". Reuters. 21 July 2016. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
- "Εκλογή μελών του Ευρωπαϊκού Κοινοβουλίου και άλλες διατάξεις." [Election of Members of the European Parliament and other provisions.]. Act No. 4255/2014 of 11 April 2014 (in Greek). Hellenic Parliament., article 1, paragraph 1:
Η ��κλογή των μελών του Ευρωπαϊκού Κοινοβουλίου στις έδρες που κάθε φορά αναλογούν στην Ελλάδα, διενεργείται με άμεση, καθολική και μυστική ψηφοφορία από τους πολίτες που έχουν το δικαίωμα του εκλέγειν, σύμφωνα με τις διατάξεις των άρθρων 4, 5 και 6 του π.δ. 26/2012 «Κωδικοποίηση σε ενιαίο κείμενο των διατάξεων της νομοθεσίας για την εκλογή βουλευτών» (Α΄ 57). Το δικαίωμα του εκλέγειν έχουν και οι πολίτες των λοιπών κρατών − μελών της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης κατά τα οριζόμενα στο ν. 2196/1994 (Α΄ 41). Η άσκηση του εκλογικού δικαιώματος είναι υποχρεωτική.
Election of Members of the European Parliament in the seats each time allocated to Greece shall be effected by direct, universal and secret ballot by the citizens entitled to vote in accordance with the provisions of Articles 4, 5 and 6 of the Presidential Decree. 26/2012 'Codification in a single text of the provisions of the legislation on the election of Members' (A 57). The citizens of other Member States of the European Union have the right to vote, as provided for in Law 2196/1994 (A 41). Exercise of the right to vote is compulsory.
- "Κωδικοποίηση σ' ενιαίο κείμενο των διατάξεων της νομοθεσίας για την εκλογή βουλευτών" [Codification in a single text of the provisions of the legislation on the election of Members of the Hellenic Parliament]. Presidential Decree No. 26/2012 of 15 March 2012 (in Greek). Greek President. Retrieved 7 March 2019., article 4, paragraph 1:
Το δικαίωμα του εκλέγειν έχουν οι πολίτες Έλληνες και Ελληνίδες που συμπλήρωσαν το δέκατο όγδοο έτος της ηλικίας τους.
Greek citizens who have reached the age of 18 have the right to vote."
Last changed by....:
- "Αναλογική εκπροσώπηση των πολιτικών κομμάτων, διεύρυνση του δικαιώματος εκλέγειν και άλλες διατάξεις περί εκλογής Βουλευτών" [Proportional representation of political parties, widening of the right to vote and other provisions on the election of Members]. Act No. 4406/2016 of 22 July 2016 (in Greek). Greek President. Retrieved 7 March 2019., article 1:
Η παρ. 1 του άρθρου 4 του Π.δ. 26/2012 (Α ́57) αντι-καθίσταται ως εξής: «1. Το δικαίωμα του εκλέγειν έχουν οι πολίτες Έλλη-νες και Ελληνίδες που συμπλήρωσαν το δέκατο έβδομο (17ο) έτος της ηλικίας τους».
Article 1 (1) of the PD. 26/2012 (A 57) is replaced by the following: «1. The citizens of Greece and Greeks who have reached their seventeenth (17th) year of age have the right to vote.»
- "Εκλογή μελών του Ευρωπαϊκού Κοινοβουλίου και άλλες διατάξεις." [Election of Members of the European Parliament and other provisions.]. Act No. 4255/2014 of 11 April 2014 (in Greek). Hellenic Parliament., article 1, paragraph 1:
- "Ministry of Interior - Information for Greek residents abroad". Ypes.gr. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- "Hellenic Republic Ministry of the Interior: EU Citizens". Ypes.gr. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- "Citizens Information: Voting in a European election". Citizensinformation.ie. 21 May 2019. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
- "ELEZIONE DEI MEMBRI DEL PARLAMENTO EUROPEO SPETTANTI ALL'ITALIA" (PDF) (in Italian). Interno.it. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 15 September 2013.
- "Conditions de l'électorat - Site officiel des élections au Grand-Duché du Luxembourg - Mode d'emploi". Archived from the original on 16 September 2013.
- "S'inscrire sur les listes électorales pour les élections européennes - guichet.lu // Luxembourg - Participation aux élections européennes". Guichet.public.lu. 24 December 2013. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- "Etre candidat aux élections européennes". Guichet.public.lu. 24 December 2013. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- This based on a Dutch decision by the 'Kiesraad', which disallowed South Africa's John M. Coetzee and two other non-European candidates on the sole ground that they had no proof of legal residence.
- "Lei Eleitoral para o Parlamento Europeu (Lei nº 14/87, de 29 Abril), Artigo 3º" (PDF). Retrieved 15 June 2014.
- "Comissão Nacional de Eleições: FAQ - Eleição para o Parlamento Europeu" (PDF).
- "Perguntas Frequentes: Candidatura - Comissão Nacional de Eleições". www.cne.pt.
- "Elections to the European Parliament of June 2009" (PDF). ine.es (in Spanish). Retrieved 15 September 2013.
- Valmyndigheten: Suffrage and electoral rolls Archived 3 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine
- Section devoted to the 2009 election on the European Parliament website
- Adam Carr's Election Archive
- European Election Studies
- The European Parliament and Supranational Party System (Cambridge University Press 2002)
- Archive of European Integration (AEI) > Institutional Administration, Developments & Reform > Parliament > Elections
- EPP Juncker 2014 campaign site
- Election Results 2016