Election Universe

A look at the May 2014 European elections

A look at the May 2014 European elections
May 14 2014, 14:03

eu elections

“Continue, continue, there is no future for the people of Europe other than in union.”

These were the words of Jean Monnet, a French political economist and diplomat, considered by many as chief architect of European unity.

And on 22 May, around 400 million people from 28 EU member states will continue to choose who’s in charge, when they’ll elect the 751 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to represent their interests for the next five years.

Each country has its own electoral laws and each chooses which day it will go to the polls, from 22-25 May.

What’s new?

These elections are different for a number of reasons. For one, they’re the first since the Eurozone crisis hit, so will give people a chance to show how they feel their leaders have handled it.

This will also be the first time voters have a say in who heads up the European Parliament. Of the 13 European parties, five have put forward a candidate. The new Parliament will have equal powers as national governments on all EU laws.

Since the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, MEPs have been responsible for “co-deciding” up to 70 per cent of European laws. Since 2009, the parliament has passed 871 legislative acts, voting 23,551 times on 19,213 amendments to 2,790 legal texts in plenary debates that lasted 2,160 hours.

Electronic voting and technology in the EU elections

Estonia is probably the world’s most progressive country when it comes to voters casting their ballots online. And it will allow its citizens to vote online in advance (15-21 May) of Estonia’s EU election day (25 May). Estonians abroad will also be able to vote in advance online at embassies, as well as by post.

However security experts claim the EU should not adopt Estonia’s internet voting system, not at least until it addresses certain security concerns. Read the independent report on e-voting in Estonia or the story in the UK’s Guardian newspaper

The report has only just been published so Estonia hasn’t had a chance to look at it and comment. When it does, we’ll let you know.

UPDATE: Here’s the VVK’s response to the report and the Guardian story

There’s also an app available for both iPhone Android to offer a fun way of learning about the elections

Bite the Ballot is a party-neutral not-for-profit organisation that is empowering young people to vote.

The Telegraph and Guardian newspapers are conducting a campaign for UK politicians to take part in the first online debate

UPDATE: A party in the south east of the UK will trial the use of QR codes on ballot papers

Voter turnout

Despite the EU having grown and its parliament having become increasingly important, turnout has fallen. In 1979, the first direct elections, it was 62%. In 2009, 43% turned out to cast their ballot. Polls show that percentage will drop another five points.

The EU’s last Eurobarometer, a large 2013 opinion poll, found that 60% of Europeans don’t trust the EU. That’s a figure that has nearly doubled since 2007, as people have felt that the eurozone’s response to the financial crisis has been marked by bank bailouts, spending cuts and high unemployment.

Actually, it seems simplistic to say ‘turnout has fallen’. Read this for a good analysis Dissecting EU election turnout (and why it’s likely to remain low)

Denmark came up with a novel method of trying to get (possibly young) people to vote – a cartoon about a superhero called Voteman Warning: This cartoon features sex and violence.

Voting systems

Where voting is based on an open list system, voters can indicate a preference for one or more candidates on the list. This is done in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden.

When voting with a closed list system, the political parties establish the order of candidates and the voters only cast their vote for a party. This is done in France, Germany, Hungary, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the UK (except Northern Ireland).

Voting in the UK

The United Kingdom will elect 73 MEPs using proportional representationEngland, Scotland and Wales use a closed-list party list system of PR (with the D’Hondt method), while Northern Ireland use the Single transferable vote (STV).

Other differences between countries

Voting is compulsory in Belgium, Cyprus, Greece and Luxembourg.

In some countries, such as France and the UK, voters need to pre-register on the electoral roll. In many other countries this is automatic.

More information

Elections 2014 website does a good job of engaging and educating, even creating an importance of voting page It includes several videos featuring people explaining why they vote.

You can also learn more about how countries vote, including how the UK will vote in the EU Parliament elections