Election procedureUntil 1979, EP Presidents were chosen on an annual or biennial basis. Since the first EP election by universal suffrage in 1979, the President is elected and remains in office for a renewable period of two and a half years. During each legislative term, a first election is normally held in July, immediately after the election of the new Parliament, and a second, mid-term election is held two and a half years later, in January. According to Article 14(4) of the Treaty on the European Union (TEU), the European Parliament elects its President from among its Members. The Parliament’s Rules of Procedure (RoP), as revised and applicable from the start of the 2019-2024 legislature on 2 July 2019, set out the procedure for this election. The President is elected based on nominations, which may be handed in before each round in the ballot, with nominees’ consent. Candidates are proposed by political groups, but may also be nominated by a number of Members reaching at least the ‘low threshold’ i.e. one-twentieth (38) of Parliament’s Members (Rules 15 and 179). During the first plenary sitting after the election of a new Parliament, or at the sitting designated to elect the President for the mid-term election, the procedure is chaired by the outgoing President, or by one of the outgoing Vice-Presidents in order of precedence or, in their absence, by the MEP having held office for the longest period (Rule 14). The Parliament cannot deal with any other activity until the election of the new President is concluded (Rule 14(2)).
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Duties of the PresidentThe President enjoys executive and representative powers, as well as responsibility for ensuring respect of the rules of procedure. The President directs all of Parliament’s activities, including the duty to ‘open, suspend and close sittings; to rule on the admissibility of amendments and other texts put to the vote, as well as on the admissibility of parliamentary questions’. Order is maintained during sittings by the President giving the floor to speakers. The President also closes debates, puts matters to the vote, announces the results of votes and makes relevant communications to committees. The President’s responsibility extends also to the security and inviolability of the Parliament’s premises (Rule 22). Rule 22(4) attributes to the President the power to represent Parliament in international relations, on ceremonial occasions and in administrative, legal and financial matters, although these powers may be delegated. The powers of the President, however, extend far beyond the mere letter of Rule 22. They also include, for example, the power to convene the conciliation committee, under both ordinary legislative procedure and in the budgetary procedure, in agreement with the President of the Council, and to chair Parliament’s delegation to the conciliation committee (although under the ordinary legislative procedure this duty is often delegated); to chair formal sittings when visiting heads of state address the Parliament; and during important votes or debates. Since the late 1980s, the practice of the EP President addressing the opening of all European Council meetings has developed, a sign of the increased visibility and recognition of the role in relation to the other institutions and the outside world. The President chairs both the EP Bureau and the Conference of Presidents, and may cast a deciding vote in the Bureau in the event of a tie. One significant symbol of the extent to which Parliament’s powers have evolved is that the EP President co-signs, with the President of the Council, legislative acts adopted under the ordinary legislative procedure (Article 297(1) TFEU). At the end of the budgetary procedure, it is also the EP President who declares the EU budget adopted (Article 314(9) TFEU).
Election of Vice-Presidents and QuaestorsRule 15 makes it explicit that, after the election of the President, Parliament also elects the other two main political officers of Parliament necessary for the functioning of Parliament’s activities, in the following order: the 14 Vice-Presidents and then the 5 Quaestors. Nominations are made on the same basis as for the President (Rule 15). Under Rule 17, the 14 Vice-Presidents are elected in a single ballot by an absolute majority of votes cast. If the number of successful candidates is less than 14, a second vote is held to assign the remaining seats under the same conditions (absolute majority). If a third vote is necessary, a relative majority is sufficient to fill the remaining seats. Vice-Presidents take precedence in the order in which they are elected and, in the event of a tie, by age. If voted by acclamation, a vote by secret ballot determines the order of precedence. The election of Quaestors follows the same procedure as that for the election of Vice-Presidents (Rule 18). In practice, the political groups aim to ensure that the Vice‑Presidents and Quaestors broadly reflect the numerical strength of the groups, including taking into account the results of the election of the President. This is an update of an ‘at a glance’ note published in January 2017.
Read this ‘At a glance’ note on ‘Electing the European Parliament’s President‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament. Listen to podcast ‘Electing the European Parliament’s President‘.