All elected offices in the European Parliament, i.e. President, Vice-President, Quaestor, and Committee Chair and Vice-Chair are renewed every two and half years, so once in the 5-year legislative term.
At the first plenary session of 2012 (16-19 January) Parliament will elect a new President. The 14 new Vice-Presidents will also be elected, as will the Quaestors. Current office-holders can be confirmed for a second mandate.
In electing the President, Vice-Presidents and Quaestors, account should be taken of the need to ensure an overall fair representation of Member States and political views.
During the week starting on Monday 23 January, Parliament's standing committees will elect their Chairs and Vice-Chairs. Chairs and Vice-Chairs can also be confirmed for a second mandate.
Candidates for the Presidency may be proposed either by a political group or by a minimum of forty MEPs (Rule 13). Candidatures can be tabled until the beginning of the plenary session, usually on Monday at 17:00h.
The election is held by secret ballot. Unusually for a vote in the European Parliament, MEPs take part by marking their preferred candidate on a paper ballot and placing it in a ballot box. The process is overseen by eight tellers, chosen by lot from among the MEPs.
To be elected, a candidate must win an absolute majority of the valid votes cast, i.e. 50 per cent plus one (Rule 14). Blank or spoiled ballots do not count in calculating the majority required.
If no candidate is elected at the first ballot, the same or other candidates can be nominated for a second round of voting under the same conditions. This can be repeated at a third round if necessary, again with the same rules.
If no-one is elected at the third ballot, the two highest scoring candidates in that round proceed to a fourth ballot, where the one receiving the greater number of votes wins. (Should there be a tie at this stage, the older candidate is declared the winner).
The newly elected President then takes the chair and is entitled to make an opening address (though he or she can also choose to make just a few short remarks, with a more formal speech at a later date), before presiding over the election of the Vice-Presidents and Quaestors.
The President chairs the plenary sittings of Parliament, the Conference of the Presidents of Political Groups and the Bureau of Parliament (made up of the President and the 14 Vice-Presidents, plus the Quaestors in an advisory capacity).
The President is responsible for the application of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament, including the Code of Conduct, and, to this end, oversees all the activities of Parliament and its bodies.
The President represents Parliament in all legal matters.
The President addresses the European Council prior to each of its meetings, stating Parliament's viewpoint on the subjects on the agenda as part of a debate with the heads of state and government.
The President represents Parliament in its international relations, and, in this connection, undertakes official visits within and outside the EU.
The President signs the EU budget into being following Parliament's vote on it at second reading. During the procedure, the President chairs the EP/Council conciliation committee.
The President may, under the co-decision procedure, chair the EP/Council conciliation delegations. Jointly with the President-in-Office of the Council, the President signs all legislative acts adopted by co-decision.
When an Intergovernmental Conference is held for the reform of the Treaties, the President takes part in the meetings of the government representatives where these are organised at ministerial level.
Candidates for the posts of Vice-President and Quaestor can also be made either by a political group or by at least 40 Members. The Vice-Presidential election is also held using a paper-based secret ballot, with a single ballot paper. Candidates must obtain the support of an absolute majority of those casting valid ballots, with a second round held under the same conditions if all 14 posts are not filled on the first round. A third round can then be held if there are still vacancies, at which point a relative majority is enough for election to one of the remaining positions.
The order in which candidates are elected determines the order of precedence (Rule 15). If the number of candidates proposed is the same as the number of positions to be filled - fourteen - then they will be elected by acclamation, with a vote held simply to determine the order of precedence. A similar procedure is followed for the election of the Quaestors (Rule 16).
Vice-Presidents can replace the President in performing his duties when necessary, including chairing plenary sittings. (Rule 21) They are also members of the Bureau, the body responsible for all administrative, staff and organisational matters of the Parliament. The five Quaestors deal with administrative matters directly affecting MEPs themselves. (Rule 26).
Presidents of the European Parliament 1952 to 1979
1952 - 1954 Paul-Henri SPAAK (Soc, BE)
1954 Alcide DE GASPERI (CD, IT)
1954 - 1956 Giuseppe PELLA (CD, IT)
1956 - 1958 Hans FURLER (CD, DE)
1958 - 1960 Robert SCHUMAN (CD, FR)
1960 - 1962 Hans FURLER (CD, DE)
1962 - 1964 Gaetano MARTINO (L, IT)
1964 - 1965 Jean DUVIEUSART (CD, BE)
1965 - 1966 Victor LEEMANS (CD, BE)
1966 - 1969 Alain POHER (CD, FR)
1969 - 1971 Mario SCELBA (CD, IT)
1971 - 1973 Walter BEHRENDT (Soc, DE)
1973 - 1975 Cornelis BERKHOUWER (L, NL)
1975 - 1977 Georges SPENALE (Soc, FR)
1977 - 1979 Emilio COLOMBO (CD, IT)
Presidents of the directly elected European Parliament since 1979
Session of July 1979: Simone VEIL (LDR, FR)
elected on the second ballot with 192 votes (votes cast: 377)
Session of January 1982: Pieter DANKERT (PES, NL)
elected on the fourth ballot with 191 votes (votes cast: 366)
Session of July 1984: Pierre PFLIMLIN (EPP, FR)
elected on the second ballot with 221 votes (votes cast: 403)
Session of January 1987: Lord (Henry) PLUMB (ED, UK)
elected on the third ballot with 241 votes (votes cast: 477)
Session of July 1989: Enrique Baron CRESPO (PES, ES)
elected on the first ballot with 301 votes (votes cast: 475)
Session of January 1992: Egon KLEPSCH (EPP, DE)
elected on the first ballot with 253 votes (votes cast: 446)
Session of July 1994: Klaus HÄNSCH (PES, DE)
elected on the first ballot with 365 votes (votes cast: 452)
Session of January 1997: Jose Maria GIL ROBLES (EPP, ES)
elected on the first ballot with 338 votes (votes cast: 515)
Session of July 1999: Nicole FONTAINE (EPP-ED, FR)
elected on the first ballot with 306 votes (votes cast: 555)
Session of January 2002: Pat COX (ELDR, IE)
elected on the third ballot with 298 votes (votes cast: 568)
Session of July 2004: Josep BORRELL FONTELLES (PES, ES)
elected on the first ballot with 388 votes (votes cast: 647)
Session of January 2007: Hans-Gert POETTERING (EPP-ED, DE)
elected on the first ballot with 450 votes
Session of July 2009: Jerzy BUZEK (EPP, PL)
elected on the first ballot with 555 votes (votes cast: 644)
Each standing committee elects its Bureau, consisting of a Chair and of Vice-Chairs, in separate ballots. The number of Vice-Chairs to be elected is determined by the full Parliament upon a proposal by the Conference of Presidents.
Where the number of the candidates corresponds to the number of seats, the election can take place by acclamation. If this is not the case, the election takes place by secret ballot. If there is only one candidate, he or she will have to be backed by an absolute majority of the votes cast, including votes for and against.
If, at the first ballot, there is more than one candidate for each seat, is elected the candidate who obtains an absolute majority of the votes cast, including votes against and in favour. At the second ballot, the candidate who obtains the highest number of votes is elected. In the event of a tie, the oldest candidate prevails. As for the President election, in case of a second ballot, new candidates can be nominated.