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The role of the Electoral College in US presidential elections

04-11-2020

The President and Vice-President of the United States of America are not elected directly by US voters, but rather by the Electoral College, a representative body composed of 538 electors chosen by voters in parallel contests in each of the 50 US states and the District of Columbia. This body emerged during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 as a compromise designed to ensure the continuing pre-eminence of the states in the US federal system, as well as to temper what were seen then as potentially ...

The President and Vice-President of the United States of America are not elected directly by US voters, but rather by the Electoral College, a representative body composed of 538 electors chosen by voters in parallel contests in each of the 50 US states and the District of Columbia. This body emerged during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 as a compromise designed to ensure the continuing pre-eminence of the states in the US federal system, as well as to temper what were seen then as potentially dangerous democratic passions. At first, state legislatures chose the electors, and it was only in the 19th century that state authorities began to appoint electors on the basis of the result of a popular vote. The operation of the Electoral College and the process by which it chooses a presidential 'ticket' has attracted growing attention in recent decades, on account of an increasingly polarised US political landscape and a changing electoral map. The existence of the Electoral College poses a number of basic questions about the fairness of the electoral process and popular representation in the United States. Moreover, there are many questions about how precisely the Electoral College process should be carried out, in order for it to be considered legitimate, especially as regards the behaviour of electors and their political parties during the election period. Two elections in the past two decades – those of 2000 and 2016 – have resulted in the victory of a candidate who received fewer votes nationwide than their opponent. Calls for the abolition of the institution and the introduction of direct election of the President by all citizens have become more frequent. Polls show a consistent majority in favour of this change, although this majority has narrowed and opinion has become more polarised along partisan lines as evidence has emerged of a structural advantage in the Electoral College for the Republican Party candidate. Nevertheless, this institution has endured for over two centuries of republican government, and a number of arguments are put forward in its defence. US public opinion is also more divided on the detail of proposed alternatives.

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European Parliament Liaison Office in Washington DC

Understanding US Presidential elections

16-10-2020

In August 2020, the two major political parties in the United States (US), the Democrats and the Republicans, formally nominated their respective candidates for the 59th US presidential election, which takes place on Tuesday, 3 November 2020. An initially crowded field of contenders in the Democratic primaries developed into a two-horse race between former US Vice-President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders, with Biden declared the Democratic nominee on 18 August. He will now contest the presidential ...

In August 2020, the two major political parties in the United States (US), the Democrats and the Republicans, formally nominated their respective candidates for the 59th US presidential election, which takes place on Tuesday, 3 November 2020. An initially crowded field of contenders in the Democratic primaries developed into a two-horse race between former US Vice-President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders, with Biden declared the Democratic nominee on 18 August. He will now contest the presidential election against the Republican candidate, who faced no significant primary challenge, the incumbent US President, Donald Trump. The US President is simultaneously head of state, head of government and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. Presidential elections are therefore a hugely important part of American political life. Although millions of Americans vote in presidential elections every four years, the President is not, in fact, directly elected by the people. Citizens elect the members of the Electoral College, who then cast their votes for the President and Vice-President. While key elements of the presidential election are spelled out in the US Constitution, other aspects have been shaped by state laws, national party rules and state party rules. This explains why presidential campaigns have evolved over time, from the days when presidential candidates were nominated in the House of Representatives by the 'king caucus', to an almost exclusively party-dominated ‘convention’ system, and finally to the modern system of nominations based very largely on primary elections, introduced progressively to increase the participation of party supporters in the selection process. A number of additional developments have also played an important role in shaping today's presidential elections, notably political party efforts to limit 'front-loading' of primaries; the organisation of the Electoral College system and the changes to the campaign financing system. A previous version of this Briefing, written by Carmen-Cristina Cîrlig and Micaela Del Monte, was published in 2016.

Trump or Biden: Where next for US foreign and defence policy? [What Think Tanks are thinking]

09-10-2020

The United States is heading for a presidential election on Tuesday 3. November that will pit incumbent Republican candidate, Donald Trump, against the former Democrat Vice President and Senator, Joe Biden. Many analysts and politicians say that this contest may well be one of the most important since the end of World War II, as it will offer a stark choice between two entirely different paths for US foreign and defence policy. During his four years in office, analysts stress how President Trump, ...

The United States is heading for a presidential election on Tuesday 3. November that will pit incumbent Republican candidate, Donald Trump, against the former Democrat Vice President and Senator, Joe Biden. Many analysts and politicians say that this contest may well be one of the most important since the end of World War II, as it will offer a stark choice between two entirely different paths for US foreign and defence policy. During his four years in office, analysts stress how President Trump, whose decisions were often unpredictable, has reversed many aspects of traditional US foreign and defence policy, which had previously been based on a respect for international institutions and a strong Transatlantic alliance. This note offers links to recent commentaries and reports from international think tanks on the US electoral campaign and the legacy of President Trump.

Belarus on the brink

25-08-2020

As usual in Belarus, the 9 August presidential election was marred by fraud, repression and state violence against the opposition. As expected, the long-standing President, Aleksander Lukashenko, claimed a landslide victory. What was unusual this time, however, was the scale of Belarusians' disappointment: peaceful protests and strikes spread throughout the entire country in response to the stolen election, despite brutal crackdowns. What started as a national crisis now represents a wider struggle ...

As usual in Belarus, the 9 August presidential election was marred by fraud, repression and state violence against the opposition. As expected, the long-standing President, Aleksander Lukashenko, claimed a landslide victory. What was unusual this time, however, was the scale of Belarusians' disappointment: peaceful protests and strikes spread throughout the entire country in response to the stolen election, despite brutal crackdowns. What started as a national crisis now represents a wider struggle between truth and lies, democracy and autocracy, raising the stakes for both Minsk and Moscow, whose nervousness has spilled over into mounting aggression.

Outcome of the European Council video-conference of 19 August 2020

25-08-2020

The European Council video-conference meeting of 19 August 2020 was called by the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, due to the increasingly worrying situation in Belarus after the recent national elections. As Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, summarised, the European Council decided to convey three clear messages from the meeting: i) the EU stands with the Belarussian people; ii) the EU will place sanctions on all those responsible for violence, repression ...

The European Council video-conference meeting of 19 August 2020 was called by the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, due to the increasingly worrying situation in Belarus after the recent national elections. As Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, summarised, the European Council decided to convey three clear messages from the meeting: i) the EU stands with the Belarussian people; ii) the EU will place sanctions on all those responsible for violence, repression and the falsification of election results; and iii) the EU is ready to accompany the peaceful democratic transition of power in Belarus. While mainly focusing on Belarus, the Heads of State or Government also discussed two further issues during the video-conference meeting. First, as regards the tense situation in the eastern Mediterranean as a result of increasingly hostile Turkish activity, the European Council expressed its full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus, recalling and reaffirming its previous conclusions on the illegal drilling activities, and called for de-escalation. Second, on the situation in Mali, EU leaders expressed their deep concern over the events in the country, which have a destabilising impact on the entire region and on the fight against terrorism, and called for an immediate release of prisoners and restoration of the rule of law.

Impact of the pandemic on elections around the world: From safety concerns to political crises

17-07-2020

The coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on electoral processes around the world, with many elections being postponed because of emergency situations. Ideally, postponing elections should involve a sensible balancing act between the democratic imperative, enshrined in international law and national constitutions, to hold regular elections, and public health requirements restricting large gatherings and minimising close contact between people. While some countries have decided to go ahead with elections ...

The coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on electoral processes around the world, with many elections being postponed because of emergency situations. Ideally, postponing elections should involve a sensible balancing act between the democratic imperative, enshrined in international law and national constitutions, to hold regular elections, and public health requirements restricting large gatherings and minimising close contact between people. While some countries have decided to go ahead with elections, most countries with elections scheduled since the beginning of March have postponed them. Among those that have held elections during the pandemic, South Korea has emerged as a model for having organised a highly successful electoral process, while protecting the health of its population. Others, such as Burundi, have set a negative standard, ignoring health risks putting both population and politicians in peril. Postponing elections as part of the policy response to the crisis ideally requires a broad political consensus. However, rescheduling has proven divisive in many cases. Those in power have often been accused by the opposition and other critics of trying to reshape the calendar to their own advantage, either by lifting lockdowns too early to allow for the restart of the electoral process (such as in Serbia − the first European country to hold parliamentary elections after the crisis) or by prolonging transitional situations unnecessarily (such as in Bolivia, which has an interim president). The crisis provides a unique opportunity for electoral reform. Extending opportunities for early and remote voting has been seen as a way to reduce risk. However, much caution is needed, particularly as regards remote online voting, which involves either limitations of the right to voting secrecy or serious and still unmanageable cyber-risks.

Continuing political crisis in Venezuela

03-03-2020

One year after Juan Guaidó's self-proclamation as interim President of Venezuela, the political crisis affecting the country is far from over, as shown by the government's latest failed attempt to neutralise the opposition forces in the National Assembly. The legislative election announced by Nicolas Maduro for 2020 will not improve the country's political situation unless it is accompanied by a free and fair presidential election.

One year after Juan Guaidó's self-proclamation as interim President of Venezuela, the political crisis affecting the country is far from over, as shown by the government's latest failed attempt to neutralise the opposition forces in the National Assembly. The legislative election announced by Nicolas Maduro for 2020 will not improve the country's political situation unless it is accompanied by a free and fair presidential election.

Bolivia: A test for democracy

16-01-2020

Bolivia's Evo Morales was probably the most successful among the presidents belonging to the left-wing movements that swept across the Latin American region in the early 2000s. However, his insistence on clinging to power in defiance of the Constitution and the will of the majority of Bolivians, including many of his former supporters, ultimately led to his demise and sparked political conflict. Nevertheless, the agreement reached between all parties to call new elections gives hope for the future ...

Bolivia's Evo Morales was probably the most successful among the presidents belonging to the left-wing movements that swept across the Latin American region in the early 2000s. However, his insistence on clinging to power in defiance of the Constitution and the will of the majority of Bolivians, including many of his former supporters, ultimately led to his demise and sparked political conflict. Nevertheless, the agreement reached between all parties to call new elections gives hope for the future and could be an example for other countries in the region to emulate.

Kazakhstan: Transition, but not much change

18-10-2019

Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan for nearly 30 years, announced his intention to step down in March 2019. With Nazarbayev's backing, former senate speaker Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was elected to replace him in June. Although Nazarbayev is no longer president, he retains considerable power, and in the short term at least his successor is not expected to undertake major reforms.

Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan for nearly 30 years, announced his intention to step down in March 2019. With Nazarbayev's backing, former senate speaker Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was elected to replace him in June. Although Nazarbayev is no longer president, he retains considerable power, and in the short term at least his successor is not expected to undertake major reforms.

Presidential elections in Ukraine [What Think Tanks are thinking]

15-03-2019

Ukraine will hold presidential elections on 31 March, five years after the Maidan protests resulted in the impeachment of pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovich, setting the country on a course to deepen ties with the West. Russia reacted by launching a hybrid war against Ukraine, which resulted in the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula in March 2014, and in military aggression in eastern Ukraine. The outcome of the ballot is uncertain, but the new leader is expected to continue the efforts ...

Ukraine will hold presidential elections on 31 March, five years after the Maidan protests resulted in the impeachment of pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovich, setting the country on a course to deepen ties with the West. Russia reacted by launching a hybrid war against Ukraine, which resulted in the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula in March 2014, and in military aggression in eastern Ukraine. The outcome of the ballot is uncertain, but the new leader is expected to continue the efforts of incumbent President Petro Poroshenko to deepen relations with the European Union and NATO, and continue the country's reform process, including anti-corruption measures. A record 44 candidates are contesting the election, with actor and political novice Volodymyr Zelenskiy holding the lead in opinion polls, followed by Poroshenko and former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko. If no candidate secures an absolute majority in the first round, the top two contenders will face each other in a run-off on 21 April. This note offers links to recent commentaries, studies and reports from major international think tanks on the situation in Ukraine.

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EPRS online policy roundtable with the World Bank: Where next for the global economy
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25-01-2021
Public Hearing on "Gender aspects of precarious work"
Przesłuchanie -
FEMM
26-01-2021
Public hearing on Co-management of EU fisheries at local level
Przesłuchanie -
PECH

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