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European Union electoral law: Current situation and historical background

17-10-2019

The European Parliament did not always enjoy the powers and democratic legitimacy it does now. This is clear from a quick glance at how Parliament has evolved. Starting life as an Assembly – a name reminiscent of institutions linked to international diplomacy – with members simply appointed by national parliaments of Member States, it grew into an institution, the European Parliament, directly elected by citizens and now the only one representing EU citizens directly. This transformation has taken ...

The European Parliament did not always enjoy the powers and democratic legitimacy it does now. This is clear from a quick glance at how Parliament has evolved. Starting life as an Assembly – a name reminiscent of institutions linked to international diplomacy – with members simply appointed by national parliaments of Member States, it grew into an institution, the European Parliament, directly elected by citizens and now the only one representing EU citizens directly. This transformation has taken several decades. Despite Parliament's increased role, the current electoral rules remain only partly harmonised, to the extent that there is no uniform electoral process for all Member States. The current situation is that certain fundamental principles are enshrined in the 1976 Electoral Act, but many aspects are regulated by national law. This lack of a uniform electoral process also leads to differences in treatment between EU citizens depending on their country of origin and potentially deprives European elections of a truly European dimension. Several reforms of the EU electoral system have been attempted over the years, but not all have resulted in legislation. The introduction of a transnational constituency in particular is a perennially controversial issue. Some consider it a step towards the genuine 'Europeanisation' of elections, others believe that it could increase the distance between the public and elected representatives. While the co-existence of differing electoral rules under the aegis of common European principles is probably destined to last, the latest reform – adopted in 2018 – will bring in mechanisms designed to increase public participation in the EU political debate and make the appointment of one of the top EU leadership roles, president of the European Commission, more 'political', by means of the Spitzenkandidaten process.

The European elections and thereafter [What Think Tanks are Thinking]

12-07-2019

On 23-26 May, 2019, European Union citizens elected a more fragmented European Parliament than its predecessor, with the two main political groups – the European People’s Party and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats losing some ground, and the Liberals, now known as Renew Europe, and the Greens/European Free Alliance strengthening their representation. Gains made by Eurosceptic and populist groups proved more limited than had been predicted. This note brings together commentaries ...

On 23-26 May, 2019, European Union citizens elected a more fragmented European Parliament than its predecessor, with the two main political groups – the European People’s Party and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats losing some ground, and the Liberals, now known as Renew Europe, and the Greens/European Free Alliance strengthening their representation. Gains made by Eurosceptic and populist groups proved more limited than had been predicted. This note brings together commentaries, analyses and studies by major international think tanks and research institutes on the European elections and their aftermath.

Understanding the d'Hondt method: Allocation of parliamentary seats and leadership positions

28-06-2019

The allocation of seats in collegiate organs such as parliaments requires a method to translate votes proportionally into whole seats. The 'd'Hondt method' is a mathematical formula used widely in proportional representation systems, although it leads to less proportional results than other systems for seat allocation such as the Hare-Niemeyer and Sainte-Laguë/Schepers methods. Moreover, it tends to increase the advantage for the electoral lists which gain most votes to the detriment of those with ...

The allocation of seats in collegiate organs such as parliaments requires a method to translate votes proportionally into whole seats. The 'd'Hondt method' is a mathematical formula used widely in proportional representation systems, although it leads to less proportional results than other systems for seat allocation such as the Hare-Niemeyer and Sainte-Laguë/Schepers methods. Moreover, it tends to increase the advantage for the electoral lists which gain most votes to the detriment of those with fewer votes. It is, however, effective in facilitating majority formation and thus in securing parliamentary operability. The d'Hondt method is used by 16 EU Member States for the elections to the European Parliament. Furthermore, it is also used within the Parliament as a formula for distributing the chairs of the parliamentary committees and delegations, as well as to distribute those posts among the national delegations within some political groups. Such proportional distribution of leadership positions within Parliament prevents domination of parliamentary political life by only one or two large political groups, ensuring smaller political groups also have a say on the political agenda. Some argue however that this limits the impact of the election results on the political direction of decision-making within Parliament and call for a 'winner-takes-all' approach instead. Many national parliaments in the EU also distribute committee chairs and other posts proportionally among political groups (either using the d'Hondt method or more informally). Other Member States, however, apply a 'winner-takes-more' approach with only some committee chairs with particular relevance to government scrutiny being reserved for opposition groups, while in the US House of Representatives committee chairs all come from the majority.

Outcome of the informal dinner of Heads of State or Government on 28 May 2019

29-05-2019

EU leaders met to consider the outcome of the European Parliament elections, and to start the appointment process to high-level EU positions ahead of the June 2019 European Council. They discussed the principles that would guide their action, and mandated the European Council President, Donald Tusk, to begin consultations with the Parliament. EU leaders reiterated their February 2018 position on the absence of automaticity between a role as lead candidate and the European Council nomination for President ...

EU leaders met to consider the outcome of the European Parliament elections, and to start the appointment process to high-level EU positions ahead of the June 2019 European Council. They discussed the principles that would guide their action, and mandated the European Council President, Donald Tusk, to begin consultations with the Parliament. EU leaders reiterated their February 2018 position on the absence of automaticity between a role as lead candidate and the European Council nomination for President of the European Commission. They discussed the balance that needs to be found, but did not discuss any names. The President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, stressed the parliamentary majority’s attachment to the Spitzenkandidaten process.

Living in the EU: European Elections and Democracy

30-04-2019

The concept of participation lies at the heart of the European project, however recent years have seen a decrease in electoral turnout in contrast to the broader feelings of EU citizens of being part of a wider project promoting prosperity, social cohesion, unity and tolerance. Participation differs among different groups, and among the most explored is the gender gap in political participation, even though progress has been achieved over the years. Nowadays many European citizens show an increasing ...

The concept of participation lies at the heart of the European project, however recent years have seen a decrease in electoral turnout in contrast to the broader feelings of EU citizens of being part of a wider project promoting prosperity, social cohesion, unity and tolerance. Participation differs among different groups, and among the most explored is the gender gap in political participation, even though progress has been achieved over the years. Nowadays many European citizens show an increasing attachment to the EU, and its democracy, despite the perception of corruption and the challenges to press freedom affecting Member States to different degrees.

Is transparency the key to citizens’ trust?

11-04-2019

Trust in political institutions is a key element of representative democracies. Trust in the rule of law is also the basis for democratic participation of citizens. According to the spring 2018 Eurobarometer survey of public awareness of the EU institutions, 50 % of respondents indicated they trust the European Parliament, which represents a 34 % increase since the beginning of the 2014-2019 legislative term. A transparent political decision-making processes has become a common objective to help ...

Trust in political institutions is a key element of representative democracies. Trust in the rule of law is also the basis for democratic participation of citizens. According to the spring 2018 Eurobarometer survey of public awareness of the EU institutions, 50 % of respondents indicated they trust the European Parliament, which represents a 34 % increase since the beginning of the 2014-2019 legislative term. A transparent political decision-making processes has become a common objective to help strengthen citizens’ trust in policy-makers and enhance the accountability of public administrations. In this regard, regulation of lobbying (the exchange between policy makers and stakeholders), and bolstering the integrity of this process, is often considered a vital ingredient. Public expectations for increased transparency of the exchange between policy-makers and interest representatives varies from one political system to the next, but it has increasingly become a topic of debate for parliaments across Europe, and a regular demand during election campaigns.

2019 European elections: National rules

11-04-2019

This infographic contains up-to-date information on key data concerning the forthcoming European elections (to be held in May 2019). In a one-page format, readers will find information on the election day in each country, the voting systems adopted at Member State level, as well as on rules governing eligibility and allocation of seats. The infographic also explains the re-distribution of seats which would take place following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, now expected to take place ...

This infographic contains up-to-date information on key data concerning the forthcoming European elections (to be held in May 2019). In a one-page format, readers will find information on the election day in each country, the voting systems adopted at Member State level, as well as on rules governing eligibility and allocation of seats. The infographic also explains the re-distribution of seats which would take place following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, now expected to take place only after the European elections, and the consequent overall reduction in the total number of seats to 705. Further information and clarification is provided on the second page of the infographic.

Election of the President of the European Commission: Understanding the Spitzenkandidaten process

05-04-2019

The European Parliament has long sought to ensure that, by voting in European elections, European citizens not only elect the Parliament itself, but also have a say over who would head the EU executive – the European Commission. What became known as the 'Spitzenkandidaten process' is a procedure whereby European political parties, ahead of European elections, appoint lead candidates for the role of Commission President, with the presidency of the Commission then going to the candidate of the political ...

The European Parliament has long sought to ensure that, by voting in European elections, European citizens not only elect the Parliament itself, but also have a say over who would head the EU executive – the European Commission. What became known as the 'Spitzenkandidaten process' is a procedure whereby European political parties, ahead of European elections, appoint lead candidates for the role of Commission President, with the presidency of the Commission then going to the candidate of the political party capable of marshalling sufficient parliamentary support. The Parliament remains firmly committed to repeating the process in 2019 and, with EP elections now only weeks away, attention has shifted to the European political parties. A number of parties have nominated lead candidates, and this briefing gives an overview of their nominees, as well as looking more broadly at the process. This is a revised and further updated edition of an earlier briefing; previous edition from February 2019.

European Parliament: Facts and Figures

29-03-2019

This Briefing, published by the European Parliamentary Research Service, is designed to provide key facts and figures about the European Parliament, both in the 2014 to 2019 parliamentary term now drawing to a close - and in the seven previous terms since direct elections were introduced in June 1979. On the following pages you will find graphics of various kinds which: • detail the composition of the European Parliament now and in the past; • trace the increase in the number of parties represented ...

This Briefing, published by the European Parliamentary Research Service, is designed to provide key facts and figures about the European Parliament, both in the 2014 to 2019 parliamentary term now drawing to a close - and in the seven previous terms since direct elections were introduced in June 1979. On the following pages you will find graphics of various kinds which: • detail the composition of the European Parliament now and in the past; • trace the increase in the number of parties represented in the EP and evolution of political groups; • chart the rise in the number of women sitting in the Parliament; • explain the electoral systems used in elections to the Parliament across the Member States; • show how turnout in European elections compares with that in national elections; • summarise the activity of the Parliament in the 2014-19 term, and in the 2009-14 term; • present the annual cost of the Parliament compared with other parliaments; • outline the composition of the Parliament’s main governing bodies. The Briefing has been updated regularly during the 2014-19 term to take account of latest developments.

State of the Union: Spring 2019 [What Think Tanks are thinking]

22-03-2019

The run-up to the European Parliament elections on 23-26 May has intensified debate about the state of the European Union, the challenges it faces and the reforms needed, both to strengthen its resilience and to enhance its international role. Many analysts focus on the rise of anti-establishment movements and a perceived divide between the east and west of the Union regarding adherence to EU values and the rule of law. Some others discuss whether the EU should have more competence in areas such ...

The run-up to the European Parliament elections on 23-26 May has intensified debate about the state of the European Union, the challenges it faces and the reforms needed, both to strengthen its resilience and to enhance its international role. Many analysts focus on the rise of anti-establishment movements and a perceived divide between the east and west of the Union regarding adherence to EU values and the rule of law. Some others discuss whether the EU should have more competence in areas such as defence, international relations, migration and taxation. This note offers links to reports and commentaries from some major international think-tanks and research institutes on the state of the Union, proposed reforms and other issues being discussed ahead of the European elections. Studies and commentaries on Brexit can be found in a previous item in the series. Papers on economic challenges faced by the EU and the euro area are available in still another. Some further analyses on the European elections can be found in a ‘What think tanks are thinking’ published in January.

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