- Elections in the European Union
Elections in the European Union take place every five years by universal adult suffrage. 785 MEPs are elected to the
European Parliamentwhich has been directly elected since 1979. No other body is directly elected although the Council of the European Unionand European Councilis largely composed of nationally elected officials. [ [http://www.europarl.europa.eu/parliament/public.do?language=en European Parliament: Welcome] europarl.europa.eu]
There is no uniform
voting systemfor the election of MEPs; rather, each member state is free to choose its own system, subject to three restrictions: [ [http://www.europarl.europa.eu/facts/1_3_4_en.htm The European Parliament: electoral procedures] europarl.europa.eu]
* The system must be a form of
proportional representation, under either the party list or Single Transferable Votesystem.
* The electoral area may be subdivided if this will not generally affect the proportional nature of the voting system.
election thresholdon the national level must not exceed five percent.
The allocation of seats to each member state is based on the principle of degressive proportionality, so that, while the size of the population of each country is taken into account, smaller states elect more MEPs than would be strictly justified by their populations alone. As the number of MEPs granted to each country has arisen from treaty negotiations, there is no precise formula for the apportionment of seats among member states. No change in this configuration can occur without the unanimous consent of all governments. [ [http://www.ena.lu?lang=2&doc=4000 The election of members of the European Parliament] European Navigator] [ [http://www.europarl.europa.eu/facts/1_3_4_en.htm The European Parliament: electoral procedures] europarl.europa.eu]
The European Union has a
multi-partysystem. Often no one party has a chance of gaining power alone, and parties must work with each other to form coalitions known as "groups". However it should be noted that as no government is formed as a result of the elections, there are no permanent, formal coalitions.
The two major parties are the conservative
European People's Partyand socialist Party of European Socialists. They form the two largest groups, (called EPP-EDand PESrespectively) along with other smaller parties. There are numerous other groups including Communists, Greens, Regionalists, National Conservatives, Liberals and Eurosceptics. Together they form the seven (from January 2007 to November 2007: eight) recognised groups in the parliament. [ [http://www.europarl.europa.eu/members/expert.do?language=EN MEPs by Member State and political group – sixth parliamentary term] europarl.europa.eu]
MEPs that are not members of groups are known as "
It has been a common belief among analysis that European elections are fought on national issues and used by voters to punish their governments mid-term. Turnout has also been falling steadily since the first elections in 1979 indicating increased apathy about the Parliament despite its increase in power over that period. Political scientists in Cologne have indicated voters may in fact be expressing their view on
European integration. As national governments have become more pro-integration, there has been a steady rise in the number of euroscepticMEPs elected which the scientists predict will only increase after the 2009 election. They also state that dissatisfaction with Europe, not their national governments, is prompting the increasingly low turnouts. [Beunderman, Mark ( 2007-09-04) [http://euobserver.com/9/24686 More euroseptic MEPs to be elected in future, experts predict] , EU Observer]
The turnout is an increasingly big issue for some, with some noting that in the UK, 11 million voted in the 1999 European elections while 23 million voted on the Big Brother TV show in 2002. Despite falling below 50% since 1999, turnout is not yet as low as that of the US Midterm elections which usually fall below 40%. However that situation is not criticised so much due to the fact the US President is elected separately, whereas the EU Commission President is appointed. Some such as former Parliament President
Pat Coxhas also noted that the 1999 election turnout was higher than the previous US Presidential election. [Mulvey, Stephen ( 2003-11-21) [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3224666.stm The EU's democratic challenge] BBC News] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3715399.stm Q&A: European elections] , BBC News 2004-07-21] It is hoped though that by more closely linking that post to the elections, turnout should increase. [cite web|last=Spongenberg|first=Helena|title=EU wants to dress up 2009 elections on TV|date= 2007-02-26|publisher=EU Observer|url=http://www.euobserver.com/9/23566|accessdate=2007-07-08] cite web|last = Palmer|first=John|title = Size shouldn't matter|publisher= The Guardian|date= 2007-01-10|url=http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/john_palmer/2007/01/good_rather_than_bad_not_b_ig.html|accessdate = 2007-06-28 ] cite web|last = Mahony |first=Honor|title = European politics to get more political|publisher=EU Observer|date= 2007-06-27|url=http://euobserver.com/9/24370|accessdate = 2007-06-28 ]
Historical percentage results in union-wide elections of the three major groups by region. [ [http://www.europe-politique.eu/parlement-europeen.htm Europe Politique: Parlement européen] (in French)] , 1979 to 2004.
List of elections
List of all union-wide elections and by-elections;
* [http://psephos.adam-carr.net/countries/e/europeanunion/ Adam Carr's Election Archive]
* [http://www.eurela.org European Election Law Association (Eurela)]
* [http://www.europeanelectionstudies.net European Election Studies]
* [http://www.ena.lu?lang=2&doc=4000 The election of members of the European Parliament]
* [http://elections.online.fr/ European Elections Online] fr icon
* [http://assets.cambridge.org/97805218/06251/sample/9780521806251ws.pdf The European Parliament and Supranational Party System (Cambridge University Press 2002)]
* [http://aei.pitt.edu/ Archive of European Integration (AEI)]
* [http://aei.pitt.edu/view/eusubjects/xelections.html Archive of European Integration (AEI) > Institutional Administration, Developments & Reform > Parliament > Elections]
* [http://aei.pitt.edu/view/subjects/A014.html Archive of European Integration (AEI) > Subject Areas > Political science themes > European elections]
* [http://eiop.or.at/erpa/ European Research Papers Archive]
* [http://www.eustudies.org/ European Union Studies Association (EUSA)]
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