CMV: The European Parliament should be elected on transnational lists
Fri Jul 13 2018 15:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
University of Manchester
Reader in Political Theory
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• European citizens feel increasingly alienated from European politics and from democratic politics more generally: they feel that it is impossible for ordinary citizens to really make an impact, to be genuinely represented, to hold elites to account. The lack of a strong response to the European sovereign debt crisis has exacerbated this.
• This is a crucial root-cause of both the generally increasing level of Euroscepticism and the rise of populist politics.
• On top of that, the only arena of direct citizen representation in the EU, namely the European Parliament, is still (perhaps wrongly) perceived as a talking shop, and European Elections are just opportunities for “showdowns” on largely domestic issues.
• Finally, and crucially, disaffection with democracy is also caused by the (largely correct) perception that citizens are constantly being asked to find doemstic solutions to problems that cut across boundaries
• Transnational lists could mobilize citizens around issues of Pan-European interest – austerity, the Eurozone governance, EU solidarity, how to manage the refugee crisis, etc.
• Some issues do not even end up "on the table" in European public discourse because the European citizens and stakeholder who care about them do not find channels to mobilize sufficient intrrest and momentum around them in current systems of representation. If however, we had proper, formalized electoral procedures to form alliances with like-minded actors in different member states, things might be different.
• Electoral systems are a crucial way in which the values of equality, freedom and fair representation that democrats defend are realized institutionally. With respect to the EU in particular, many theoretical discussions have gravitated around the problem of the lack of a European people which regards itself as having a common fate, and which therefore has a strong interest in settling disagreements democratically. One crucial way in which we could contribute to fostering the development of a European people is by allowing a genuine European political conversation around European elections - transnational lists would strongly help in that respect. Many conflcits on European matters cut across national borders: Some salient groups of European citizéns might have more in common, and jointly at stake, with European citizens of other countries (but of say, the similar social class) than with their felow citizens.
• Disregarding these cross-border alignments has played a big role in the rise of populism
• Transnational lists could revitalize the idea of European Political Parties
• The most effective response to a crisis of democracy is…more democracy. Citizens are tempted by populism when they do not see the possibility of genuine representation. Opening new channels for effective representation is the only way to go in these cases.
• Lack of EU solidarity and democratic accountability has led to populism – the only way out of populism is to allow European citizens to engage politically with one another across borders, in a meaningful way.
• The idea has recently re-gained some political traction (see the nomination of the President of the Commission by european Parties during the last European elections, and the Democracy in Europe Movement DiEM2025)
Even though there is no uniform voting system for the election of members of the European Parliament and each member state is free to choose its own system, certain official restrictions apply
The idea of transnational lists already dares back to the 1990s, when European Parliament reports mentioned the possibilities of an electoral process, in which political parties, irrespective of their national roots, would present one political manifesto and one list of candidates to all EU citizens across the territory of the whole Union
The idea of reforming the electoral process for MEPs by allowing for their election on transnational lists has recently been brought back to discussion due to Brexit and the support of the idea by prominent politicians within the EU
Most prominently, French President Emmanuel Macron proposed that some of the 73 seats freed up by Britain's departure with Brexit should go to Europe-wide constituencies instead of national ones
Moreover, the Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM2025) has recently supported the idea of a reform of European elections
One instance of where a reformed electoral process (in line with a more European voting spirit) already took hold were the 2014 European Parliament Elections, in which European political parties endorsed common candidates for the post of the EU Commission President
Transnational lists for the European elections
Why transnational lists are good for European democracy