European Elections are less than 50 days away. It’s time to bring together our publications on the topic and focus on this unique pan-European ballot.
Who are we electing?
The European Parliament (EP) is the only directly elected EU institution. In May, voters from 28 Member States will elect 751 Members of the European Parliament (MEP) for a five year term. In addition, for the first time, citizens will, through their vote, indirectly influence the choice of the next European Commission President. The European Parliament elects the next incumbent based on proposal by the heads of states, taking into account the elections. Hitherto six European political parties have nominated their candidates for the position. This “Europeanisation” of the elections aims to increase political accountability of the European Commission to the Parliament. Another goal is to reverse the declining turnout trend by giving voters’ a say on future EU policies and making the European elections livelier.
Election procedure: governed by EU & national rules
At EU level, only some general common rules apply to European elections in all Member States, such as proportional representation. Moreover, under EU law, EU citizens are entitled to vote and stand as a candidate in their country of residence or in their country of origin. This is not the case in national parliamentary elections in all Member States: citizens residing abroad may lose their voting rights.
Apart from these common rules, European elections are largely regulated by national laws. For instance, EU law authorises Member States to establish an electoral threshold of up to 5% for the distribution of seats. Half of the Member States have a formal electoral threshold for the European elections. However, Germany abolished its 3% threshold recently after a ruling by the Constitutional Court.
European Parliament proposals to reform the electoral rules included among others a transnational list, where a number of candidates would be elected from a constituency covering the whole territory of the EU Member States. These proposals to establish a uniform electoral procedure for the European elections have turned out to be controversial, due to the diverging electoral traditions in the Member States.
Social media offer new ways to talk politics
Use of social media is growing among voters and politicians. It is just one of many information sources, but special in several ways. In terms of reaching like-minded people in a targeted manner and to disseminate messages without the intermediate role of traditional media, social media tools have inspired new forms of election campaigning. The forthcoming elections will contribute for their part to completing the unclear picture of the significance of social media in informing voters, in stimulating political participation and encouraging citizens to cast their vote.
For your eyes only:
For Members of the Parliament, their offices and EP officials we offer e-mail alerts providing in-house analysis and hand-picked external info sources delivered directly to their inbox. [intranet access only]
Furthermore, we have a collection of books focusing on the European Elections and national electoral rules and we hold subscriptions to academic full-text e-journals, such as Electoral Studies, Journal of European Public Policy and Acta Politica – International Journal of Political Science.