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  • It is one of the biggest democratic exercises in the world.

  • More than 350 million people across 28 European countries are eligible to vote and to choose their next representatives that will sit here in the European Parliament.

  • But with 28 countries voting on different days, each with its own electoral laws and procedures, it's bound to get complicated.

  • The first European parliamentary elections took place back in 1979, when only nine countries were members of what was then called the European Economic Community.

  • Since then, that community has expanded into what's now known as the European Union.

  • And voters head to the polls every five years to elect the 751 members of the European parliament or MEPs.

  • The number of MEPs assigned to each country varies and corresponds to the country's population.

  • For example, the EU's most populous country Germany elects 96 lawmakers, while Luxembourg only gets six seats.

  • In some countries like Italy, MEPs represent a specific region.

  • In others like France, they represent the entire country.

  • So now let's get into how all of these MEPs are actually elected.

  • Voting is open to all EU citizens, and in Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece and Luxembourg, it's actually compulsory.

  • This time around, the elections are spread over four voting days, between May 23rd and 26th.

  • Here in Belgium, citizens cast their vote on Sunday, whereas the British and the Dutch have their say on the previous Thursday.

  • The results, however, are kept secret until every country has voted.

  • Next, let's talk about the method, or should I say methods, that the EU uses to elect its representatives.

  • Stay with methis is where it gets a little bit tricky.

  • Depending on where a voter is based, they could be using one of three systems.

  • The closed list, open list or single transferable vote system.

  • What they all have in common is that they aim to achieve proportional representation.

  • That means the number of votes a party gets, will directly correspond to the number of seats they receive in the European parliament.

  • In the closed list system, citizens vote for parties.

  • Those parties have already selected a fixed list of candidates.

  • So if a party gets 20% of votes in a country allocated 10 MEPs;

  • The two top people on the party's list will become Members of the European Parliament.

  • In the open list system, Europeans vote for a party, but can also indicate their favorite candidate.

  • This means voters can actually change the order of the party's list.

  • Therefore influencing which of the party's candidates become MEPs.

  • In the single transferable vote system, voters can choose as many candidates as they like and then number them by preference.

  • These votes are counted in phases.

  • First, people's number one preferences are counted.

  • Any candidate who passes a certain quota of votes is elected.

  • Any votes exceeding that quota are then changed into the ballot's second preference.

  • And transferred to the other candidates.

  • If there still aren't enough votes to reach the quota, the candidate with the lowest amount of votes is eliminated.

  • And those votes are transferred to the second preference too.

  • This process is repeated until all seats up for election are filled.

  • One more thing.

  • Some countries have what's called an electoral threshold.

  • Which means that a party or a candidate needs to get a certain percentage of the national vote in order to get a seat here in Brussels.

  • This, in theory, keeps fringe or extremist parties from winning seats without meeting a minimum level of widespread support.

  • So citizens select their parties and candidates at a national level.

  • They then align themselves with other EU politicians with similar views and form one big pan-EU group at the European Parliament.

  • These alliances help stand-alone parties and independent politicians gain more influence.

  • The big elephant in the room is of course Brexit.

  • The European Parliament's 751 seats will shrink down to 705 once the U.K. leaves the European Union.

  • The plan is to reallocate some of those seats to under-represented countries like France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.

  • There was another proposal on the table tootransnational lists.

  • It would have transformed U.K. seats into seats for a pan-European constituency.

  • Its advocates, who include the likes of French President Emmanuel Macron, say it would strengthen the European democracy

  • by forcing parties to discuss European, not just national, issues.

  • EU lawmakers have rejected this idea but it does bring us back to why this year's European elections are seen as so important.

  • Pro-Europe parties have dominated the Parliament, but nationalists and eurosceptics are gaining traction.

  • Whoever sits in the European Parliament will help determine what happens next in this economic and political union.

It is one of the biggest democratic exercises in the world.

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How do European elections work? | CNBC Explains

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    Celeste posted on 2019/06/15
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