European elections: The basics

The European elections will be held on the same day as the local elections this year. You vote to elect MEPs to the European Parliament. Want to know what MEPs actually do? Read this.

Each country in the European Union elects MEPs. The larger the country, the more MEPs it has. So Malta has 6, while Germany has 99 (though will lose three in 2014). The UK elects 73 MEPs.

The UK is divided into 12 regions for European elections. London is one region. Today it has 8 MEPs, but will elect 9 on May 22nd, who between them will represent the whole city, rather than any sub-divisions.

In 2009, London’s MEPs came from the Conservatives (3), Labour (2), the Liberal Democrats (1), the Green Party (1) and UKIP (1).

Within the European Parliament, MEPs tend to sit in large political groupings that are roughly aligned with their party. The two largest groupings are the European People’s Party (with whom most Conservative MEPs would sit) and the Progessive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (wtih whom Labour MEPs would expect to side). Since 2009 there have been eight groups in total.


Voting in European elections is quite different to that in other UK elections. It is based on proportional representation rather than our traditional first-past-the-post system. Different countries use different variations of proportional representation. In London, we use a party list system (if you want to show off, it’s the D’Hondt method).

On the ballot paper you’ll see a list of political parties and a list of independent candidates. You won’t see any names of candidates who represent political parties.

Put your X against EITHER the political party you want to vote for OR the independent candiate you want to vote for. That’s it, you’re done.

What happens next?

The seats are allocated in a slightly complex system. There’s a good explanation here. In a nutshell, the party with the most votes gets the first seat. It then gets progressively harder for that party to get each subsequent seat. Each party has its own list of candidates, which are ranked. Each time the party wins a seat, the next person on the list is awarded that place. Independent candidates are treated as if they were their own party.

Um… ok…

What this boils down to is that most people vote for the party they want to win. There’s not really any point in voting tactically although these elections are often used by voters to pass judgement on the state of national politics.

Now why not check out the candidates?

Previously, in “Politics”…

Local elections 2018: The candidates

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