Voting Vexation: The Complications of European Confederation


With the recent results of the European Parliament elections now announced, I, as a citizen of the Netherlands, wanted to take a opportunity to look at the differences in how elections work for this election cycle, and give insight into the sheer variety of different methods employed by countries in the European Union. I think this is important as it helps explain the various methods by which interested parties are elected, and also shows the very disparate nature of the people in the EU, who tend to choose their own unique methods of representation, despite being part of a Union.

How do the European Parliament elections work?

European elections are held once every 5 years. Each country gets to divide a certain amount of seats with the countries with a higher amount of citizens getting more seats. This number of citizens per seat given is not proportional though, for example in the election of 2014 Germany got 1 MEP for every 852.539 citizens (96 MEPs in total) while Malta got 1 for every 69.352 citizens (6 MEPs in total). The vote of a Maltese person was worth more than 12x that of a German.

Each country is free to decide the rules of the election on how to divide the allocated seats, because of this many different systems are used all over the EU.

Party-list proportional representation

Most countries in the EU divide their seats based on party-list proportional representation with the whole country being 1 constituency. There are still some differences between countries though. Some opt to have people vote for a party, some opt to let you vote on a person on the party list, and in Luxembourg you can vote for either a party or a person. How the seats are divided based on the vote also differs

between countries. The 2 most common methods are:

Highest averages method: Giving the person with the highest average a seat and then dividing their amount of votes by a factor after which they check who has the highest average again.

Largest remainder method: First calculating a amount of votes per seat and dividing the seats left based on who has the highest amount of votes left.


Belgium is split up in 3 constituencies based on language. The French-speaking, the Flemish-speaking, and the German-speaking part. All constituencies use party-list proportional representation but because of the fact that the German constituency only has 1 MEP he is elected using first past the post. This is also the seat with the smallest electorate having only 46.914 citizens. Because of this your vote here is worth more than 18x that of a German

The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland both use single transferable vote where you rank the parties based on preference. The Republic of Ireland chose to split up the country in 3 constituencies.

The United Kingdom is split into Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and each of these regions are considered within England, with Gibraltar being included in South West England. Northern Ireland is the only constituency in the United Kingdom to not use party-list proportional representation.

Italy, Germany and Poland use a system where the votes are divided to regional representatives based on the national result and the amount of votes in the region with higher voter turnout regionally giving you more seats for the region.

In summary

We can see transparently that a great deal is divided among countries within the European Union. That representation is so unbalanced between individual citizens, such that the weight of some voters will always be disproportionately weighed against the votes of others, all while deciding the governing international policy of the entire region seems ridiculous.

Why should Malta have more of a say over a law that dictates the actions of German citizens than Germany? Why should the United Kingdom be forced to Kowtow to the will of Romania? If these mandates were solely economic, as was once the case, perhaps the argument could be made that it serves the economic interests of the region, but the EU has exceeded such a mandate and has moved into the realm of social governance and the rights of people within it. Perhaps if the EU had a binding national identity the likes of which exists in the United States, a shared history and identity that bound them all together, then such a prospect would be possible to institute, but no such identity exists despite the efforts of politicians to bring one about.

In short, the social problems and calumny that will result from countries within the EU making demands of one another in regards to social behavior will not pass without due recourse. For a group of nations that some in power would like to see turn into an "Empire for Good", it should serve as a fairly clear warning that if these countries can't even agree on adopting one unified voting method, that there are going to be problems that any attempts at unification are unlikely to resolve.