Just the Facts – The European Parliament Elections Explained

Following on from the three Just the Facts constituency reviews which we issued to you our members last week, we have prepared a series of Just the Facts information briefings focusing on the European Parliament elections next Friday 23 May.

Further instalments in this series of articles will follow in the coming days in the run-up to the elections as part of our communications and information work around the 2014 European Parliament elections.

The European Parliament Elections Explained

What are the Irish European constituencies?
In Ireland, a total of 11 MEPs will be elected in three constituencies: Dublin (three seats), Midlands-North-West (four seats) and South (four seats).  The Dublin constituency comprises the county and city of Dublin.  The Midlands-North-West constituency encompasses fifteen counties: Cavan, Donegal, Galway, Kildare, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo and Westmeath.  The South constituency, finally, covers Carlow, Clare, Cork, Kerry, Kilkenny, Limerick, Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow.

Who can vote in the European Parliament elections in Ireland?
In order to vote in the European Parliament elections in Ireland, you must be on Ireland’s Electoral Register.  Irish citizens on the Electoral Register, as well as EU citizens who have lived in Ireland since 1 September 2013 and are on the Electoral Register, are eligible to vote in the elections.  To check if you are on the Register, just visit www.checktheregister.ie.  The published Register can also be accessed in local authority offices, post offices, Garda stations and public libraries.

Representation in the European Parliament
The European Parliament is elected to promote the interests of the more than 500 million citizens of the EU.  It has legislative, budgetary and supervisory powers through which it plays an important part in the EU’s legislative process, in shaping the annual EU budget and in the supervision of the economy.  Since 1979, MEPs have been elected directly.  In the first direct European Parliament elections held in Ireland, we elected 15 MEPs.  This was reduced to 13 for the 2004 elections, to 12 for the 2009 elections, and will be reduced further to 11 for this year’s elections.  These reductions are part of the EU’s enlargement process.

When is election day across the EU?
Across the EU’s 28 Member States, there is a four-day election period, running from Thursday 22 May to Sunday 25 May 2014.  Each of the EU’s Member States has its own electoral laws and decides on which day within that four-day period its citizens will go to the polls. British voters, for example, will vote on Thursday 22 May, whereas in Ireland we will go to the polls on Friday 23 May.  The vast majority of the remaining Member States will vote on Sunday 25 May.  The results from all 28 Member States will be announced on the evening of Sunday 25 May.

The minimum age to be eligible to vote and to stand as a candidate in the European elections is established by national law.  While the age at which you can vote is 18 years in all Member States, except Austria where the voting age is 16, the minimum age at which you can stand as a candidate in the European elections varies considerable across the 28 counties.  In Ireland, for example, the minimum age is 21, whereas in Greece and Italy it is 25.

How many MEPs will be elected?
There are currently 766 MEPs in the European Parliament (754, plus 12 Croatian MEPs who were elected following Croatia’s accession to the EU last year).  This number has been scaled down to 751 MEPs (Article 14(2) TEU) for the 2014 elections and will remain at that level into the future.  These 751 MEPs will represent over 500 million citizens across the EU’s 28 Member States. Seats in the European Parliament are allocated among the Member States on the basis of ‘digressive proportionality’.  This means that although countries with larger populations have more seats than smaller ones, the ratio of MEPs to the country’s population is lower for the EU’s smaller states.

One major change introduced by the Lisbon Treaty is that when the EU’s Member States nominate the next president of the European Commission, they will – for the first time – have to ‘take into account’ the results of the European Parliament elections.  The new Parliament must endorse this candidate; it ‘elects’ the President, in the words of the Treaty.  Of the 13 European political parties, five have nominated a candidate to succeed the current President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso.

The candidates are:

  • José Bové (The Greens/European Free Alliance)
  • Jean-Claude Juncker (European People’s Party)
  • Ska Keller (The Greens/European Free Alliance)
  • Martin Schulz (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats)
  • Alexis Tsipras (European United Left/Nordic Green Left)
  • Guy Verhofstadt (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe)

 

This Just the Facts article is also available as an email information service from European Movement Ireland to our members. For more information on becoming a member of European Movement Ireland, contact our offices or visit our Membership webpages.

 

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