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EP elections: "Spitzenkandidaten", mandatory thresholds, right to vote abroad

Plenary Session Press release - Constitutional affairs11-11-2015 - 20:21
An Estonian citizen casts his electronic vote for the European election   MEPs want electronic voting to be made available in all EU countries, just like it is in Estonia© EU 2014 - European Parliament

European elections should be fought with formally endorsed, EU-wide lead candidates (“Spitzenkandidaten”) for the Commission presidency, Parliament said on Wednesday in a formal proposal for a change to EU electoral law. It says these candidates should stand for election to the EP themselves, and be formally nominated at least 12 weeks before the elections.

Following its debate on 27 October, Parliament adopted a proposal for a set of reforms to the 1976 EU Electoral Act by 315 votes to 234, with 55 abstentions. The current major differences between national rules undermine the notion of European citizenship and the principle of equality, says Parliament.

"We want to adjust the Electoral Act of 1976 to the new reality," said co-rapporteur Danuta Hübner (EPP, PL) in the debate on 27 October. "The elections to the European Parliament continue to be extremely national. We hope to increase citizens’ interest in participating in this important element of European decision-making."

"The young generation should be encouraged to take part in these elections. The internet generation prefers to vote online, with one click, rather than going to a town hall or a school," said co-rapporteur Jo Leinen (S&D, DE). "In some countries, the electoral lists are not completed until 17 days before the elections. I do not know how it is possible to campaign."

Parliament voted for a deadline of 12 weeks before the elections for establishing electoral lists.

For bigger EU countries, the EP advocates mandatory thresholds for obtaining seats in the European Parliament, ranging from 3 to 5% of the vote. Compared to today's system, this means that Spain and Germany would need to introduce thresholds.


Right to vote abroad

All EU citizens living abroad must be able to vote in elections to the European Parliament and electronic, online and postal-voting systems should therefore be made available in all EU member states, says Parliament.

Four countries did not provide for citizens living abroad to vote in the 2014 European elections (Czech Republic, Ireland, Malta, Slovakia). For the others, voting was either possible by post, or at the embassy, by proxy or electronically).

To stop double-voting (by people with more than one citizenship or by EU citizens living abroad), MEPs want EU countries to exchange data on voters.

More visibility for European political parties

Ballot papers used in the European elections should give equal visibility to the names and logos of national parties and the European political parties to which they are affiliated, says Parliament. A national party’s European affiliation should also be clear in all its election campaign material.

MEPs also suggest creating a cross-border joint European constituency, in which lists are headed by each political family's nominee for the post of president of the Commission

The co-rapporteurs will hold a press conference at 9.00 on Thursday, 12 November. The press conference will also be web-streamed.


The EU Treaties (TFEU Article 223.1), give the European Parliament the right to initiate a procedure to reform European electoral and draw up proposals to this end. These proposals would need to be endorsed unanimously by the Council and then approved by all member states, in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.

Procedure: Legislative initiative procedure

REF. : 20151109IPR01698
Updated: ( 11-11-2015 - 20:47)
For 2019 European elections, MEPs would like to see

EU-wide lead candidates


member states should allow their nationals to vote even if abroad


common minimum voting age (preferably 16, as in Austria)


electoral lists established at least 12 weeks before elections

European elections: what you need to know in order to vote

Find out the facts in our elections infographic

Press release
Who's involved
Reform of the electoral law of the European Union