Elections to the European Parliament

Photo: European Parliament

Elections to the European Parliament are held every five years. The citizens of the EU member states elect their representatives to the European Parliament by direct public ballot. The European Parliament looks after the interests of the citizens when decisions are made in the European Union.

A certain number of representatives are elected to the European Parliament from every country. How the parliamentary seats are divided is determined in the Treaty. Large countries have more MEPs than small ones. Even so, small countries have more seats than they would be entitled to based on the size of the population. According to the Treaty of Lisbon every member state must have at least six representatives (Malta, Luxembourg, Cyprus and Estonia) from the 2014 elections onwards. Large countries may have a maximum of 96 MEPs (Germany). Finland has 13 representatives.

Every citizen of Finland may vote for a candidate in the elections to the European Parliament.

Different countries have different election systems but there are some common features. The most important of these is proportional representation. It means that both large and small parties have a chance of getting their candidates elected to the European Parliament. Every country is free to organise the elections according to the national customs.

Large countries are divided into several electoral districts but each small country is just one single district. Finland is just one electoral district vaalipiiriä. All the candidates stand for the Parliament across the country. The votes cast in the various regions are put together and included in the results for the whole country.

Countries may choose the election day according to their national traditions. Normally the elections to the European Parliament are spread out over four days:in the UK and Netherlands people vote on a Thursday and in most other countries on a Sunday. In Finland the elections are held on Sunday. The votes cast in the elections are counted äänet lasketaan and the results published in the same evening.

Candidates take part in the elections through national political parties. After being elected the MEPs join the supranational political group of their choice. The political groups are Europe-wide political ‘families’ to which the national parties usually belong. The European elections determine which of the European groups exercises most influence in the parliamentary decision making. It is important to voters that the representatives of their own country advocate the issues and value that they find important.

The European Council must take the election results into account when it proposes a candidate for the President of the Commission.

As a result of the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Parliament has become an important player in using legislative powers. It plays a decisive role in shaping the Union’s policies.

By voting in the European parliamentary elections, every EU citizen can influence the composition and decisions of the Parliament. By voting you become one of the people who decide how the Parliament works over the next five years.