How are members of the European Parliament elected?
Since the first direct elections in 1979, European elections are held every five years. In 2019, they took place from 23 to 26 May.
Each member state returns a fixed number of members of the European Parliament (MEPs); from six, for smaller member states like Malta, Luxembourg and Cyprus to ninety-six for Germany, the largest.
751 MEPs were elected in May 2019 but that number was reduced to 705 following a post-Brexit reshuffle in February 2020. This decrease leaves room for Members joining thanks to possible future EU enlargement, while other seats the UK vacated were reallocated to countries that were hitherto underrepresented.
Seat allocation is laid down in EU treaties. Countries with larger populations are assigned more seats than smaller ones, however, thanks to the principle of “degressive proportionality” less populous member states are allocated more seats per capita than bigger ones.
Elections to the European Parliament are largely governed by national electoral laws and traditions, but there are some common EU rules laid down in the Electoral Act of 1976.