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  • Writer's pictureDamian Boeselager

The European Election is a patchwork of crappy national rules

Updated: Aug 16, 2021

The European Election is a patchwork of crappy national rules. 42 years after the first European elections it’s time to change that and bring the way we vote into the 21 century.

Damian Boeselager is a member of the European Parliament and co-founder of Volt Europa movement.

Currently, I am negotiating better rules for the elections for the European Parliament. We are more or less still in a brainstorming phase, but there are hot debates already. For example: Should we have a second vote to vote for European parties? When are you old enough to vote? When are you old enough to run in an election?

For me, these questions are key. I have experienced the differences between national election rules first hand when building Volt. When trying to run out of 27 different countries in 2019, we realized that there is not only 1 European election, but 27 national ones. Take voting age for example: In Greece you need to be at least 25 to be able to run for office. In the Netherlands, you can become a Parliamentarian when you are still in your teens...

However, the most difficult part in setting up a new pan-European party came from another weird divergence: the hurdles to register your party for elections.

In Italy for example, we would have needed 150.000 notarised signatures to be able to run. In reality, that meant that we needed to find a lot of notaries, drag them out on a piazza and convince people to sign in front of them. In comparison, in the Netherlands we only needed 4 signatures. But it's not all about signatures, it's also about money. In France for example, you need around €800.000 to print your own ballot papers and send them to all local election booths. Otherwise people physically can't vote for you… This is of course taken over for incumbent parties.

My biggest issue with these differences? All these members of Parliament make laws for all of us. We decide on a range of things that affect our daily lives, be it via internal market rules, data protection, or climate laws. However, the standards for how democratically they are elected differ. And that is not ok. Trust in elections is a very valuable currency, as we also saw recently in the US.

Today, 42 years ago, the first European Parliament elections took place. Since 1979, 18 countries have joined, adding another 200 million people to the EU. I believe it’s time to update and Europeanize our electoral system. Because Europeans deserve the best democracy possible, not some crappy fragmented patchwork system.

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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