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European Parliament votes in favor of reforming EU elections

The European Parliament voted in favor of an overhaul of EU election rules Tuesday that would give people a greater role in choosing the Commission president and allow them to vote for pan-European MEPs.

Under the new rules, voters would get to cast two ballots in European parliamentary elections: one for national candidates and one for pan-European candidates, of which there would be 28 in total.

EU citizens would also have more say over who becomes the European Commission president through the so-called Spitzenkandidaten process. Under this system — used unofficially in the 2014 EU elections to select Jean-Claude Juncker but rejected by member countries in 2019 — European political parties would choose a “lead candidate” for the president of the Commission, and whichever party wins the most seat in the Parliament would see their candidate get the Commission top job.

The Parliament backed the changes by 323 votes to 262, but they must still be unanimously approved by the member countries.

“This reform will increase the visibility of European political parties and will enable them … to campaign across the EU, so that we can create a real pan-European debate,” said the initiative’s rapporteur, Spanish MEP Domènec Ruiz Devesa. “Parliament has sent a strong message to the Council that it is high time to change EU electoral law so that we can have elections that properly reflect today’s political realities.”

The proposal also contained provisions that would improve the gender balance of MEP candidates, give all EU citizens over the age of 18 the right to vote in the European Parliament elections, and allow postal voting.

This is the fifth time the idea of transnational lists has been officially proposed, though only the second time the proposal made it to a plenary vote.

But not everyone is happy with having pan-European lawmakers, given they could dilute the voting power of national MEPs.

“The national political parties are gradually being replaced by transnational European political parties, which later, logically, will and may only have one program: the program of further integration of this European Union,” said far-right Belgian MEP Gerolf Annemans, adding that he hopes the Council and member states will “water down” the proposal.

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