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Understanding the European Parliament voting system

Navigating the intricacies of the European Parliament electoral system can be confusing. Who can vote for Members of the European Parliament  (MEPs) and why do some citizens vote for individual candidates and others for parties? Are EU citizens casting their votes for national or European parties? This blog will answer these questions and guide you through the European Parliament voting system to help you prepare for the upcoming elections.  

Who votes for EU leaders?

All EU citizens can vote for EU leaders in the European Parliament. They elect their representatives as MEPs: Members of the European Parliament. The European Union has several leading bodies that play significant roles in its governance and decision-making processes, but the European Parliament is the only parliamentary institution that is directly elected by its citizens. Each member state has different voting rules, such as the minimum voting age, whether you can vote digitally, and whether you can vote from abroad.

Why do some people vote for individual candidates and others for parties?

Whether people vote for individual candidates or parties in the European Parliament elections depends on what voting system the member state has adopted. Each country can choose its own voting system, as long as it adheres to the rules of the European Parliament electoral system. These rules determine that the system must be a form of proportional representation, which can either be a party list or a single transferable vote system. In a party list system, voters can express their support for a political party, whereas in a transferable vote system, citizens have the opportunity to vote for individual candidates through a ranked-choice ballot.

Do we vote for national parties or European parties?

Citizens vote for the national parties or candidates of their country in the European Parliament elections. Once the MEPs are elected, they continue to form factions in the European Parliament. These are European-wide political groups that ally together on certain issues and ideals. Every group consists of at least 23 members. There are currently 7 different groups in the European Parliament. However, some MEPs are not attached to any group. 

All EU citizens hold the right to participate in the upcoming European Parliament elections. While member states are bound by the regulations outlined in the European Parliament electoral system, they retain the autonomy to select their preferred voting system. Consequently, the voting landscape varies: some citizens can vote for individual candidates, while others can cast their vote for parties. All citizens will vote for national parties or candidates. Make sure to familiarise yourself with the voting rules in your country to be prepared for the upcoming elections.