EU electoral reform to bring 'true European democracy'

Written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli on 13 November 2015 in Opinion

In reforming electoral rules, MEPs hope to bring a more European dimension to European Parliament elections.

The current European Parliament electoral rules date back to 1976 - a time when the EU had just nine member states and the Berlin wall was still erect; things that, today, seem very far away. This is why MEPs last week voted on a report on reforming the electoral act. 

Co-rapporteur Danuta Hübner says, "the elections to the European Parliament are still governed by national rules and dominated by national issues. This has to change. European elections need to gain a stronger European dimension."

The Polish deputy explains that, "Parliament has insisted that all citizens can vote wherever they live or work. It has also proposed granting Europeans the possibility to cast their votes electronically, online and by post."


Co-rapporteur Jo Leinen also stresses the need for electoral reform. "We have a European Parliament that is elected by 28 national elections, and election campaigns remain focused on national topics and personalities."

He adds that, "to strengthen the European dimension in the election campaigns, we need to make European political parties more visible. The respective European party should appear alongside the national party on the ballot paper, so that the voter can make an informed choice."

Leinen also tells this magazine that, "we want a real gender balance. The draft law contains a provision that electoral lists shall ensure gender equality. In our view, it is unacceptable that only 37 per cent of MEPs are women." 

Also, "we encourage the member states to harmonise the voting age at 16, enabling young people to actively engage in European politics."

For ALDE group shadow rapporteur Sylvie Goulard, the key element of this text is, "the proposal for the creation of a Europe-wide joint constituency, alongside the lists in the member states. It is by moving away from a system which remains very national, where the French vote for the French and the Brits represent the Brits, that a true European democracy will be created." 

Unfortunately, as growing Euroscepticism spreads across the Union, this may not go down so well in the member states.

Meanwhile, Greens/EFA group shadow rapporteur Josep-Maria Terricabras, is far from pleased with the contents of the report. In his view, "the final result is a weak reform." He takes issue with the proposed obligatory threshold of between three and five per cent, which he says, "goes against the spirit of diversity and protection of minorities."

Terricabras also laments that, "transnational lists have just been mentioned in passing, almost by chance" and that, "the introduction of gender equality - which is theoretically accepted by all - has been postponed until the 2024 European elections." 

In his view, "the new electoral law will serve the official machinery, but will not help enough to destroy mistrust and distance between the electors and the elected."


About the author

Julie Levy-Abegnoli is a journalist for the Parliament Magazine

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