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European elections: common rules and national provisions

Citizens are asking what are the main common rules and national provisions for electing Members of the European Parliament. The procedures for electing Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are governed both by European Union (EU) legislation, which defines certain rules common to all Member States, and by provisions specific to each Member State.

Common rules

European elections 23-26 May 2019

© Momius / Fotolia

Common rules for electing MEPs are defined in Article 14 of the Treaty on European Union, Articles 20, 22 and 223 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union, Article 39 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the Act of 20 September 1976, amended in 2018, concerning the election of the representatives of the Assembly by direct universal suffrage.

The main common rules include:

  • Representation of the EU’s citizens shall be digressively proportional, with a minimum threshold of 6 members per Member State and a maximum of 96 seats. The overall total number of seats shall not exceed 751.
  • MEPs shall be elected for a term of 5 years by direct universal suffrage in a free and secret ballot.
  • MEPs shall be elected on the basis of proportional representation, using the list system or the single transferable vote, where the voter has one vote, but can rank the candidates.
  • Elections to the European Parliament are held within the same period in all Member States, starting on a Thursday morning and ending on the following Sunday, with the exact date and times being fixed by each Member State.
  • Member States may provide for the possibilities of advance voting, postal voting, and electronic and internet voting. They shall ensure the reliability of the result, secrecy of the vote and protection of personal data. Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure the prevention of double voting.

Furthermore, Directive 93/109/EC lays down detailed arrangements for the exercise of the right to vote and stand as a candidate in elections to the European Parliament for citizens of the Union residing in a Member State of which they are not nationals.

National provisions

In addition to the common rules, Member States set up their own provisions. For instance, Member States may establish constituencies for elections to the European Parliament and/or may set a minimum threshold for the allocation of seats. At the national level, this threshold may not exceed 5 % of valid votes cast.

Voting is compulsory in five Member States (Belgium, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Cyprus and Greece): both nationals and registered non-national EU citizens are under a legal obligation to vote.

Other matters are also governed by national provisions, such as the minimum voting age or the minimum age for standing as a candidate.

More information

The ‘2019 European elections: National rules‘ infographic provides an overview of the national provisions for electing MEPs.

More information is available on the European Parliament website, in the section entitled ‘EU fact sheets – The European Parliament: electoral procedures‘.

The ‘European elections‘ section of the ‘Your Europe‘ website offers further insight into the various aspects of the European elections.

Continue to put your questions to the Citizens’ Enquiries Unit (Ask EP). We reply to you in the EU language that you use to write to us.

About Ask EP

The Citizens' Enquiries Unit provides information on the activities, powers and organisation of the European Parliament. You ask, we answer.


5 thoughts on “European elections: common rules and national provisions

  1. So, what the UE are saying is that one million of voters is less than a simple rule? This rule has never being used before to eliminate political dissidents. And now Spain is going to do that : to used this rule to prevent that Mr. Puigdemont to be our european deputy. If the UE let Spain used that rule for its advantage, this is not democratic. The UE has to control this bad use and put on the first line the rigth of the voters, the european citizens, the catalan citizens. One million of voters will be cheat, this is not fair, One million of voters will be dissapointed with the UE. We want a real democracy, a place where nobody can use the rules for his convenience. Is that to ask for too much? Remember that Mr. Puigdemont has been judged with a german tribunal and declared innocent. So, he is a free european citizen with one million of voters!.

    Posted by Dionis Bel | June 14, 2019, 13:18
  2. As a citizen I felt extremely frustrated on the 26th of May because I couldn’t exert the right to vote for the European Parliament. I am Romanian citizen living in Belgium. Because of the very poor organizational by The Romanian Authorities, in Brussels me and many other thousands of Romanian that made the queue and waited more than 6 hours to vote, we couldn’t do it. Instead of trying to find solutions allowing people to vote, Romanian Authorities knocked the door at 9pm sharp asking the Police to come and secure the entrance. We were expecting the Authorities will try to impede us to vote, we have more examples in the past when they did their best to delay the process because they knew the outcome BUT this time the vote was for the European Parliament. Isn’t something that you are competent to investigate? Thank you

    Posted by Luminita | May 28, 2019, 20:27
    • Dear Luminita,
      The European Parliament elections are governed by national electoral law in line with EU legislation. If you were unable to cast your vote despite meeting the legal requirements, we would recommend lodging a complaint with the Electoral Authorities in your Member State.

      Posted by EPRS Admin | June 5, 2019, 11:54
  3. The national rule in Romania for EU elections 2019 is obviously only one: how to stop citizens living abroad from voting, as they usually, after having lived in a normal, democratic EU country, know what is right and what is wrong. Remember the long lines in front of the Romanian Embassies all over Europe, with people in front of the closed doors at 20.00 h, without having the chance to vote. Few stations, few responsible officers and lack of any kind of goodwill, according to Mr. Ponta’s wish ( the ex-Prime minister)
    I am sure that this “government” will do its utmost to have the least number of citizens allowed in the polling stations.

    Posted by Liliana Eugenia Silverang | April 30, 2019, 12:06


  1. Pingback: Ευρωεκλογές/Ε.Ε. & Διεθνές & Ευρωπαϊκό Δίκαιο – The SAFIA Blog - May 22, 2019

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