"A big step forward for a United European Democracy": Andrew Duff on electoral reform

April 19, 2011 5:36 PM
By Andrew Duff MEP

The Constitutional Affairs Committee today voted by 20 votes to 4 (with no abstentions) to reform the electoral procedure of the European Parliament. The plenary vote will be in June.

The initiative uses for the first time the European Parliament's new powers under the Treaty of Lisbon to initiate a change in the treaties.

The rapporteur Andrew Duff (UK/ALDE) believes that while Lisbon strengthened the statutory authority of Parliament it did too little to tackle its popular legitimacy. He argues that a radical change in electoral procedure will increase turnout, enhance the European dimension of the election campaigns, personalise the election campaign and galvanise the development of the European political parties.

The Committee also wishes to respond to the current situation in which the allocation of seats in the House contravenes the Treaty principle of degressive proportionality.

The main features of the Duff Report are as follows:

  1. An additional 25 MEPs above the current ceiling of 751 will be elected in a pan-EU constituency from transnational lists which will be gender balanced with candidates drawn from at least a third of states. These lists will be established by the European political parties and the election will be regulated by a new EU electoral authority. In effect, every elector would have two votes - one for the national or regional list and one for the transnational list.
  2. The report calls for a dialogue to be opened with the Council on finding a mathematical formula for the redistribution of the current 751 seats in order to prepare for enlargement and to bring the composition of the House in line with the Treaty-based principle of degressive proportionality.
  3. The report calls for the election date to be brought forward from June to May thereby enabling Parliament to constitute itself properly prior to the election of the new Commission President (ideally in July).
  4. The resolution calls on greater efforts to increase the representation of women and minority candidates.
  5. The resolution calls on the Commission to represent a new draft Directive on the right of EU citizens to stand and vote in a state other than their own.
  6. Finally, the report proposes a revision to the 1965 Protocol on Immunities and Privileges which would install a supranational regime for the European Parliament designed for modern standards.

Reacting to the vote, Andrew DUFF said: "MEPs from all the main party groups have reached a strong consensus on the need to reform Parliament. Under the proposed scheme, the next European elections in 2014 will take on a genuine European dimension. The opportunity of using a second vote for transnational MEPs should galvanise voters who have come to recognise that national political parties no longer work to sustain European integration in an efficient or democratic way".

The introduction of transnational lists will turn the existing EU parties - not allowed to campaign for voters or seats so far - into real campaigning organisations. Their candidates will be seeking support and recruiting members even in those states where they lack national political affiliates.

The 25 candidates of the transnational list will be, with all probability, leading European politicians or celebrities from other walks of life, helping to give the election campaign a wider following. "I have no objection to celebrities in politics," says Duff. "There is no reason to doubt that the political parties will choose their candidates responsibly".

Frequently Asked Questions

Won't national political parties be against the proposals? "If we really want a successful post-national parliamentary democracy, Europe's political class has to move with the times. So far national politicians have been rather bad at connecting citizens with the EU. It will not be acceptable for those national politicians who are so critical of the European Parliament to refuse to contemplate its reform".

Won't small countries be at a disadvantage? "Under Lisbon, MEPs now represent citizens and parties and not states. Voters from large and small countries will have the option of supporting a candidate of another nationality ‑ and my guess is that many will do so. That's the essence of post-national Europe."


Procedure file


La Une - Andrew Duff on electoral reform


Andrew Duff