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The European Parliament
European Parliament

The European Parliament (EP) can be regarded as the lower house of the European Union’s legislative branch. The upper house is the Council of the European Union.


The countries that make up the EU (its ‘member states’) remain independent sovereign nations but they pool their sovereignty in order to gain a strength and world influence they could not have on their own.

The European Parliament is a powerful institution which can amend and reject legislation, although in order to initiate legislation it needs the EU’s executive branch (the European Commission) to draft a bill.

Direct elections to the European Parliament were first introduced in 1979. The European Parliament consists on 736 MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) who are elected in the individual EU member states. MEPs are organised into different parliamentary groups such as the European People’s Party (EEP) or the Socialists and Democrats (S&D). These are in effect broad alliances of national parties.

The voting system used to elect MEPs differs in each member state, and in the UK closed List-PR in regional constituencies is used. This means that the votes cast by the electorate are pretty accurately translated into seats. Minor parties can expect representation if they have sufficient votes. However, because the party lists are closed voters can only vote for the party and have no opportunity to vote for individual candidates.

Further reading...

Want to find our more about the different voting systems and the implications they have for voters, parties, Parliament and for government? Have a look at our simple guide to voting systems...
Systems made simple our A-Z of voting systems
Recent News
27th February 2015
David Cameron and Nick Clegg were in Wales this morning, announcing further powers to be devolved to the Assembly.   The UK Government is proposing to devolve control over elections to the National Assembly which would see AMs handed power to:   Change the voting system for Assembly and local elections Introduce votes at 16 for Assembly […]
25th February 2015
The ERS has long campaigned for devolution to the local level, but the Society also campaigns for proportional representation at a local level. Here ERS Deputy Chief Executive Darren Hughes outlines why they should go hand in hand.   Sign our petition for a fairer local voting system   The decision by the government to […]
23rd February 2015
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