System of voting in the EU elections
Elections to the European Parliament are still largely organized in accordance with national elements of discourse. The legislation is also influenced by the national pattern. There are common EU rules which provide that elections must be carried out by direct universal suffrage, freely and confidentially. MEPs must be elected in the Member States on the basis of proportionate representation. However, each Member State decides whether to use an open or closed list system.
Romania’s representation in the EP is made according to the ratification law of the Act on the conditions of accession and the adaptations of the treaties on which the EU is based from the Treaty between the member countries (…) and the Republic of Bulgaria and Romania regarding their accession to the EU, no. 157/2005.
In the case of Romania, the general framework for organizing and conducting the election of members in Romania is represented by the Law no.33 / 2007 on the organization and conduct of the elections for the European Parliament.
In accordance with the provisions of Law no. 33/2007, the territory of Romania constitutes a single electoral constituency. Romanian MEPs are elected according to the system of proportional representation through closed ballots, as well as based on independent candidates. Mandates are allocated nationally according to the d’Hondt method.
Participation in vote and candidacy for the European Parliament
There are differences between Member States on the voting age and the age of candidacy. In several Member States, the candidate can both vote and run a candidacy at age 18 (Denmark, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden). However, in Austria the minimum voting age is 16 years and the one to run is 18 years, while in Italy, Greece and Cyprus the minimum age is 18 and 25 years respectively.
In the case of Romania, Romanian citizens of at least 18 years of age have the right to vote. In order to be eligible in the European Parliament, the Romanian citizens must have the right to vote and have reached the age of 23, including until the reference day. These conditions also apply to Romanian citizens who maintain a residence abroad and have the right to vote.
For political parties, citizen organizations belonging to national minorities, political alliances, and electoral alliances, the election threshold for assignment of seats represents 5% of the total votes cast at national level.
Independent candidates may be assigned mandates if they each have a valid number of votes at least equal to the national electoral coefficient. The national electoral coefficient represents the full part of the ratio between the total number of votes cast and the number of European parliamentary mandates belonging to Romania.
Under EU regulations, there are several positions incompatible with the office of Member of the European Parliament. A Member of the European Parliament cannot be a member of a national government or of a national parliament or an official in office of the European institutions. Some countries establish additional incompatibilities.
In the case of Romania, the Romanian citizens belonging to the following categories cannot be elected: the judges of the Constitutional Court, the People’s lawyer, the magistrates, the active members of the army, the policemen and other categories of civil servants, including those with special status, as well as people from other Member States whose citizens fall in similar categories.
Membership of the European Parliament is incompatible with the capacity of deputy or senator in the Romanian Parliament, member of the Romanian Government or with equivalent positions in other EU member states.
European elections in 2007
Elections are always held in the Member States that have recently joined the EU. In order to allow the new Member States to elect their own representatives in the European Parliament, national elections are organized even if they coincide with a mandate of the European legislature already under way.
The first European elections in Romania took place on November 25, 2007, along with the referendum initiated by President Traian Basescu, on the type of uninominal vote to be adopted. In 2007, Romanians, through their vote, sent to the European Parliament a number of 35 MEPs who had exercised their mandate for only half a term until mid-2009.
In the competition for the 35 seats in the European Parliament, there were 13 political and one independent candidate, Laszlo Tokes.
Out of the 13 political parties, only 5 fulfilled the electoral threshold as follows:
|Social Democratic Party||1,184,018||23.11%||10|
|National Liberal Party||688,859||13.44%||6|
|Liberal Democratic Party||398,901||7,78%||3|
|Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania||282,929||5.52%||2|
Voter turnout was 29.46%, ie 5.370.171 individuals.
European elections in 2009
On June 7, 2009, Romania held the second elections for the European Parliament. In the context of the institutional reform of the European Union, Romania was assigned 33 seats in the European Parliament, according to its demographic share among the other EU member states.
Seven political parties and two independent candidates competed for these seats, out of which only 5 formations and an independent candidate were able to meet the electoral threshold as follows:
|Social Democratic Party + Conservative Party||1,476,105||28.81%||13|
|Liberal Democratic Party||1,184,018||23.11%||10|
|National Liberal Party||688,859||13.44%||6|
|Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania||398,901||7,78%||3|
|Great Romania Party||282,929||5.52%||2|
Voter turnout was lower than in 2007 – 27, 67%, ie 5.035.297 people, and lower than the European average of 42.97%.
European elections in 2014
The latest elections for the European Parliament took place in Romania on May 25, 2014. In the race for the 32 seats in the European Parliament that are assigned to Romania as a result of the application of the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon (the European legislature must have a total of 751 deputies), 15 electoral parties and alliances were registered, as well as 8 independent candidates.
The results of the poll were as follows:
|Electoral Alliance Social Democratic Party – National Union for the Progress of Romania – Conservative Party||37.60%||16|
|National Liberal Party||23.11%||6|
|Democratic Liberal Party||13.44%||5|
|Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania||7,78%||2|
|People’s Movement Party||5.52%||2|
The voter turnout in the 2014 ballot box in Romania was higher than in 2007 and 2009, with 32.44% of voters present, but less than the European average of 42.61%.
Why is the voter turnout for the European Parliament elections low?
Elections to the European Parliament are considered “second-order” elections in the sense that they are considered less important by the public, and the national context has a great impact on the results. In particular, Europeans do not participate because they see the stake as minor, and if they go to vote, they are more influenced by their opinion about the government and national parties than about European issues.
Gap between EU institutions and citizens
The term “democratic deficit” is used by those who claim that the EU institutions and their decision-making procedures are not sufficiently democratic and seem inaccessible to ordinary citizens due to their complexity. The real democratic deficit of the EU seems to be the absence of a European political sphere. EU voters do not feel that they have an effective way to reject an unaccountable “government” and to change in some respects the course of policies and politics. In general, the public remains pro-European, but does not understand the political system, which sometimes seems to threaten their way of life.
The dissatisfaction with Europe was expressed by the low turnout in the European elections, which reached the lowest level in 2014, when the average EU-level voter turnout was only 42%. The aspect of democratic legitimacy was a sensitive one at every stage of the European integration process, and the Treaty of Lisbon contains provisions designed to reduce the gap between citizens and EU institutions by introducing the European Citizens’ Initiative, streamlining the decision-making process (access to documents and public Council meetings, introduction of the Spitzenkandidaten process to elect the President of the Commission), improving the dialogue between European decision-makers and civil society and conferring greater powers on the European Parliament, the only institution democratically elected by direct universal suffrage.
Trust in the European Union
According to the information released by the European Commission in June 2018, the European Parliament has strengthened its position over the past four years as the EU institution in which citizens have the highest confidence. Confidence in the European Parliament increased from 34% in May 2014 to today’s record high of 50%, according to the standard Eurobarometer. Therefore, the turnout at the forthcoming EP elections in May 2019 should be more numerous.