Between 4 and 7 June, hundreds of millions of citizens will cast their votes all over the European Union and elect a new European Parliament. How exactly do these elections work? In casting your vote, who are you actually electing? Here is a brief overview of the procedure and the entailing consequences:
The European Parliament is composed of 736 Members of Parliament (MEPs) who come from the current 27 member states of the European Union. According to their sizes, different member states have different numbers of seats in the Parliament. Germany, as the member state with the largest population, has 99 seats while Malta has five seats.
The vote that you will cast goes to the national party of your preference. The European Parliament brings together a variety of national parties that are elected in the nation states. There are no European parties, only European federations into which the national parties can be organized. When you cast a vote, say, for the German Social Democrats, you vote for a list of party members that the Social Democrats have put up for election to the parliament. Say, for our example, they get 30% of the votes. This means that they will get 30% of the 99 German seats, which means 33 seats in the European Parliament. Thus, the first 33 persons on the Social Democrat list will get a mandate. Take a look at the lists on the website our your favorite party, and take a look at the opinion polls to estimate who in your party will get a seat. Will your favorites all get a seat? Or would it make sense to mobilize some of your friends to vote for the same party? These seats, the 33 Social Democrat seats in our example, will add up with the Social Democrat seats from the other member states and determine, which group of political parties will have the Parliamentary majority. It has to be said, however, that voting in the European Parliament does not always follow party lines, as is the case in the member states. Thus, a majority position can still mean that some Social Democrat MEPs will block Social Democrat proposals, because they are not in favor and side with other party's positions on this issue.
After the Parliamentary elections, the Parliament has to be consulted in the setting up of a new European Commission. The member states agree on one candidate for the President of the European Commission. At the moment, it is very much expected that the current President José Manuel Barroso (Portuguese national) will be reelected. The member states then have the right to nominate candidates for Commissioners. Out of the pool of candidates, the designated Commission President will choose his favorites, respecting that each member state be represented by one Commissioner. The Commission has to be invested by a Parliamentary vote. In certain cases, the Parliament did not support the candidacy of certain Commissioners (one of which made dubious statements about the role of women in our society for example) and threatened not to approve the Commission. In this case, a European government will only take place after the Commissioner in question has been withdrawn and a new candidate from the same member state has been named.