Thursday

21st Nov 2019

MEPs keen to harmonise EU election rules

  • Danuta Hübner, co-author of the EP report hopes to have the issue before the council already this year (Photo: epp group)

The European Parliament is pushing for minimum standards, including an electoral threshold of between 3 and 5 percent in member states, for the 2019 EU elections.

MEPs in the constitutional affairs committee on Monday (28 September) backed a report that would “strengthen the European dimension” of the 2019 vote if member states agree in the EU Council.

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The report calls for thresholds - a minimum of 3 percent and a maximum of 5 percent - for parties in member states to post deputies to Brussels.

The draft law, that would amend the 1976 Election Act, also proposes that European political parties should nominate their candidates for the position of European Commission President - something which de facto happened in the 2014 election.

The report introduces the right to vote for EU citizens living outside the EU, the possibility of electronic and internet voting, as well as voting by post.

It would also introduce a 12-week deadline for finalisation of electoral lists to avoid last-minute changes to nominations of candidates, and calls for lists of candidates to be gender-balanced.

It says the provisional outcome of results should be communicated simultaneously in all member states.

“The last European Parliamentary elections were a trauma for all of us, because it didn’t manage to be fully European, and it was visible in the turnout. We wanted to make the EP elections more European and less national,” Danuta Huebner, a Polish centre-right MEP who co-wrote the report, told EUobserver after the committee vote.

Given how jealously EU capitals guard their national rules, Huebner and Jo Leinen, a German centre-left MEP, the other co-rapporteur, said they went for “realistic” proposals.

The report will go before the EP plenary at the end of October, and will need the unanimous support of member states to go through.

“We had to be practical and realistic,” said Huebner, who admits that thresholds are a difficult issue, but who also recalled that 15 member states have obligatory thresholds already.

Doru Frantescu, the director and co-founder of Votewatch Europe, a Brussels-based NGO, described the draft new rules as a “big leap forward towards ‘Europeanisation of the European elections’,” if they’re adopted.

“It is precisely because these elections are seen as secondary that the new rules may actually get some traction in the Council, as the national politicians may feel that they don’t give away too much”, he told EUobserver.

Besides the sensitive issue of nominating the Commission president, Frantescu thinks the electoral thresholds will be the most tricky.

“It will be disputed in countries such as Germany, where the Constitutional Court has abolished the threshold for the European elections. However, if the new rules will be stated in an EU law, the position of the Court is likely to be different”, he said.

“We have a lot of hurdles, but we made the first step,” Huebner added, highlighting that the report had the support of both of the EP’s biggest political groups.

Huebner said she’s already in contact with the Luxembourg EU presidency and hopes to have it on the Council agenda before the end of the year.

“We want to start moving on this,” she added.

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