Parliament has started the reform of the EU’s Electoral Act, seeking to turn the 27 separate elections and their diverging rules into a single European election.
On Tuesday, Parliament adopted a legislative initiative report that seeks to overhaul the rules for European elections. The draft legislative act was approved by 323 votes for, 262 against, and 48 abstentions, and the accompanying resolution with 331 votes for, 257 against, and 52 abstentions.
Under the system devised by MEPs, each voter would have two votes: one to elect MEPs in national constituencies, and one in an EU-wide constituency, composed by 28 additional seats. To ensure balanced geographical representation within these lists, member states would be divided into three groups depending on the size of their population. The lists would be filled with candidates coming from these groups in a proportional way. EU-wide lists of candidates should be submitted by European electoral entities, such as coalitions of national political parties and/or national associations of voters or European political parties.
Parliament also wants to tackle gender inequality, highlighting that despite an overall improvement in the last elections, some countries did not elect a single woman MEP. The text proposes compulsory “zipped lists” (i.e. alternating between female and male candidates) or quotas, without infringing on the rights of non-binary people.
Other proposals to “Europeanise” the elections include:
-9 May as the common European voting day;
-the right to stand for election for all Europeans of 18 years or older;
-a minimum electoral threshold of 3.5% to be compulsory for constituencies of 60 seats or more;
-equal access to the elections for all citizens, including those with disabilities, and the option of postal voting, and
-the right for citizens to vote for the President of the Commission in a “lead candidate” (Spitzenkandidaten) system through the EU-wide lists.
A new European Electoral Authority would be set up to oversee the process and ensure compliance with the new rules.
As established in Article 223 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, Parliament’s legislative initiative would need to be approved unanimously by the Council. It would then come back to the Parliament so that MEPs can give their consent, before being approved by all member states in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. Negotiations with the Council will commence when the member states adopt their position.
The rapporteur Domènec Ruiz Devesa (S&D, ES) commented: “This reform will increase the visibility of European political parties and will enable them (and especially their candidates on the EU-wide lists) to campaign across the EU, so that we can create a real pan-European debate. People will know they are voting for European political entities and lead candidates for Commission President. Parliament has sent a strong message to the Council that it is high time to change EU electoral law so that we can have elections that properly reflect today’s political realities.”
A press conference with the rapporteur will take place on 17.00 CEST, Tuesday 3 May 2022. Information on how to join (physically or remotely), follow it live and catch up with video on demand are available here.
The European Electoral Act dates back to 1976 (modified in 2002 and 2018, although the later amendment is not yet in force). It contains common principles that must be respected by member states’ laws on the elections to the European Parliament. However, the current Act does not define a uniform electoral system applicable across the EU.