European elections 2024: One parliament, 27 ways of voting

AFP || Shining BD

Published: 6/2/2024 4:41:41 AM

More than 350 million people across 27 countries are called on to participate in one of the West's largest democratic events from June 6 to 9, when EU residents will elect 720 members of the European Parliament.

Here are five things to know about the vote:

Keeping things in proportion

All countries must use proportional representation, meaning that a party's share of the vote is reflected in its seat tally.

But each member state has its own variant.

Here are the three main types of electoral system, ranked from least to most complicated:

Closed-list voting 

Six countries, including Germany, France and Spain use this system, in which voters can only vote for a party list and cannot change the order of the party's candidates on the list.

Preferential voting 

Voters can express their preference for one or more candidates. 

In some countries, they may only change the position of candidates on a single list. In others, they can pick candidates from different lists.

Candidates who win the most preference votes win seats.

This method is favoured by 19 countries, including Italy, Poland, the Netherlands and the Nordic countries. 

Single transferable vote

Voters rank candidates in order of their preference.

Candidates are elected once they reach a certain threshold of votes. 

Any surplus votes are then passed down to the voter's next-preferred candidate to help them get across the line. And so on down the choices, through successive rounds of counting, to the least-preferred candidate.

Malta and Ireland both use this system.

A right or a duty? 

Four countries have made voting in the EU elections mandatory: Belgium, Greece, Bulgaria and Luxembourg, though action is rarely taken against abstainers.

In other countries, voters decide whether to make their voices heard or not.

Lowering the voting age 

In most EU countries you must be 18 to vote.

But Germany and Belgium have recently joined Austria, Greece and Malta in lowering the voting age for the ballot to 16.

To stand in the European election, you have to be 18 in most countries.

But in Poland and the Czech Republic, you have to be 21, in Romania at least 23 and in Italy and Greece at least 25.

Postal voting in, e-voting out 

Thirteen states, including Germany, Spain and the Nordic countries, allow postal voting, mostly for citizens living abroad.

This year, Greece's sizeable diaspora will for the first time test the procedure, which gained in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic.

As for voting online, forget it.

Only tech-savvy Estonia allows its citizens to cast their ballots electronically.

Gender quotas

Ten countries including France, Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg, impose gender quotas on party lists 

In Spain, Portugal, Greece, Slovenia and Croatia, parties must field at least 40% of candidates of each gender, compared with 35% in Poland.

Romania passed a law to promote gender equality in its elections, but the vague wording made it ineffective. 

With a mere 15% of women in Romania's current clutch of MEPs, it is the most male-dominated in the European Parliament. 

Luxembourg's group has the most women (67%), followed by Finland (57%) and Sweden (52%) -- the latter two notably electing more women without any quotas in place.

Currently, 39.8% of MEPs are women.

Shining BD