EU elections: MEPs want transnational lists and all countries to vote on 9 May - update on a resolution 

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  • 28 additional MEPs to be elected on European Union-wide lists 
  • Transnational lists must ensure balanced geographical representation 
  • Candidates must be over 18 years of age to stand for election 
  • Equal access to ballots, postal voting and gender equality 

The Constitutional Affairs Committee proposes a reform of the European Electoral Act defining common minimum electoral standards and a Union-wide constituency.

With 19 votes to 9 and without any abstentions, the EP Committee on Constitutional Affairs backed on Monday a legislative initiative to replace the current European Electoral Act that defines how Members are elected to the European Parliament.

Transnational electoral lists

In their proposal, MEPs suggest that each voter should have two votes, one to elect MEPs in national constituencies and one in a European Union-wide constituency. 28 additional MEPs should come from the Union-wide constituency.

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. These lists will have to respect geographical representation so that smaller member states are not put at a competitive disadvantage. A new European Electoral Authority would be in charge of registering the lists, according to MEPs.

Minimum electoral standards in all member states

In order to promote a public European debate, MEPs propose a set of minimum standards to be observed during elections in the EU. Every European Union citizen over the age of 18 should have the right to stand as a candidate and a mandatory electoral threshold of at least 3.5% for large constituencies (those with at least 60 seats) should be introduced. The text also sets 9 May as the common European voting day in all member states.

Member states should ensure that European electoral entities are given equal treatment and opportunities as national political parties and that ballot papers used in elections give equal visibility to the names, acronyms, symbols and logos of these entities.

All citizens, including persons with disabilities, should have equal access to the elections. There should always be the option of postal voting, so that for example citizens living in non-EU countries can exercise their right to vote. Gender equality should be mandatory on lists of candidates.

Spitzenkandidaten system

An accompanying draft resolution, adopted on Tuesday, 29 March by 19 votes to 9 and without abstentions, specifies that all voters should be able to vote for their preferred candidate for the President of the Commission. That lead candidate should be able to stand in all member states on European Union-wide lists. For the process of selecting a new Commission President, MEPs propose an inter-institutional agreement between the Parliament and the European Council.

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Rapporteur Domènec Ruiz Devesa (S&D, ES) said: “With this reform, three main objectives will be achieved: we will be able to strengthen European political parties and association of voters and make them much more visible for voters, by enabling them to campaign across the EU and select transnational candidates. With transnational campaigns, we will be able to create a real pan-European debate so that voters are given much more opportunity to look beyond the domestic politics. These reforms should also set the Spitzenkandidaten process in stone, by giving voters a second ballot paper to elect members from a geographical and gender-balanced Union-wide list and indicate their preference for a candidate to preside the Commission.”

Next steps

The legislative initiative together with the draft resolution will have to be voted on by the European Parliament plenary, possibly during the 2-5 May session. According to Article 223 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), following endorsement by plenary, the legislative initiative will have to be adopted unanimously by the Council, obtain Parliament’s consent and receive the approval of all the member states in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.

Background

The European Electoral Act, dating back to 1976 (modified in 2002 and 2018, although the later amendment is not yet in force), 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.

According to Article 223 of the TFEU, it is the European Parliament which has the legislative initiative for the European Electoral Act. The EP shall draw up a proposal to lay down the provisions necessary for the election of its Members by direct universal suffrage in accordance with a uniform procedure in all Member States or in accordance with principles common to all Member States.