Members of the European Parliament on Wednesday backed changes to the rules governing European elections — but the reforms were a long way from the ambitious plans that many lawmakers had hoped for. At the end of more than two years of tricky negotiations with EU member countries, MEPs voted by 397 votes to 207 in favor of the changes, with 62 abstentions. Some of the proposals will be in place in time for next year’s election. They agreed to allow internet voting, allow EU citizens to vote from non-EU countries, and put in place tough penalties for those who vote in more than one country. They also agreed to put names and logos of EU political parties next to national ones on the ballot paper, but only on a voluntary basis. There was also success for Germany and Spain which, unlike most other EU countries, don’t have mandatory thresholds of votes in EU elections but will now be able to introduce a limit of between 2 and 2.5 percent. Berlin had lobbied hard for electoral thresholds despite a 2014 German court ruling which declared them unconstitutional.
The reform is “a big achievement for the European Parliament,” said Danuta Hübner of the European People’s Party. “It will make the elections more accessible for millions of citizens and make their preparations and conduct more transparent.”
“The new law will provide citizens with more options to take part in the European elections,” she added.
But several measures on a list of more ambitious proposals that MEPs had drawn up in 2015 were missing from the agreement, including a formal adoption of the Spitzenkandidat system — in which European parties choose a lead candidate and the winner gets to be Commission president — and transnational lists. The mandatory threshold of votes was narrowly approved by the Council.