Europe chooses its MEPs: 20 fun facts you may want to reflect on

Malta goes to the polls on Saturday to elect six MEPs but before then you may want brush up a few facts about the European elections being held in 28 member states

Malta votes on Saturday in the European election
Malta votes on Saturday in the European election

Voters in the UK and the Netherlands voted on Thursday to elect their MEPs, while the Irish head to the polls today. In Malta, voting takes place on Saturday, while the last polling stations to close are in Italy on Sunday at 10pm.

It will be on Sunday night that the full composition of the European Parliament will be known.

Today, Friday, is silent day in Malta during which no campaigning is allowed. Meanwhile, here are 20 things you may or may not know about the European elections ahead of the vote.

1. It all started in 1979

The first ever European Parliament elections took place in 1979. By then, the UK, Denmark, and Ireland had joined the European Communities. In this election, 410 MEPs were elected across nine countries.

2. The first president of the European Parliament was a woman

Simone Veil, was the first president of the European parliament
Simone Veil, was the first president of the European parliament

Since its conception, 30 people have severed as president of the European Parliament. Out of them, only two were women and both from France. Simone Veil of the Liberals and Democrats became the first president in 1979. Nicole Fontaine of the European People’s Party was president from 1999 to 2002.

3. After Brexit, English will no longer be the official nominated language of any member states

When Britan leaves the EU, there will only be two member states, Ireland and Malta where English is an official language. However, in Ireland, the EU nominated language is Irish, and in Malta it is Maltese.

4. Not voting isn't always an option

Voting is compulsory in Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece and Luxembourg. In Malta, voting is discretionary.

5. Women currently make up 36.1% of the European Parliament

In 1979, there were just 68 female MEPs in the European Parliament. In 2018, there were 271 female MEPs. However, that is still considered a low number when taking into consideration that there are 480 male MEPs.

6. Finland stands above the rest

Finland has the highest number of female MEPs, with 60% of its MEPs being women. Malta comes in 5th behind Ireland, Croatia and Latvia.

7. Small land mass, but vast electorate power

The EU Parliament represents the second-largest electorate in the world, with 512 million EU citizens. It comes just after the parliament of India.

8. Turnout is low

In 2014, just 42.6% of people across Europe voted in the MEP elections. During the first election in 1979, 62% of people voted. Since then, the figure has steadily decreased ever since, stagnating from 2004 onwards. The turnout in Malta stood at 75% in the last European election held in 2014.

9. Teenage voters

Malta isn’t alone in letting under 18s vote. Maltese teens will be joining Austrian and Greek teens in voting for the first time in the European elections. Austria also allows 16-year-olds to vote while Greece allows 17-year-olds to vote.

10. Parliament by the numbers

Since the first session in July of 2014, the EP has adopted 2,134 texts in plenary, including 708 legislative acts, held 552 public hearings by the parliamentary committees, received 6,889 petitions and had nearly 1.6 million people visit the parliament’s plenary chambers.

11. Germany has the longest running MEP who has severed for just under three decades

Germany's Elmar Brok is the longest-serving MEP, first elected in 1980. However, he could be on his way out this year after losing a spot on the list of his party, the Christian Democratic Union

12. Voting online

Estonia is the only country in the European Union that allows its citizens to vote in the upcoming MEP elections online. The majority of the EU also enable citizens to vote by post, and a handful allow a proxy vote as well. In Malta, this year, voting will remain manual but the counting process will be done electronically.

13. Minimum age to stand for election

In the majority of member states, persons must be 18 to stand for election. However, in some countries, the minimum age is 21. Romania, Greece and Italy have the highest minimum age, 23 and 25 respectively. In Malta the minimum age to contest the EP election is 18.

14. The MEP elections span over four days

While Malta goes to the polls on 25 May the majority of member states vote on the 26. The Netherlands and the UK vote on 23 May and Ireland on the 24 May.

15. Germany has the largest number of MEPs

The number of seats each country receives is based on the size of the population, the member state with the largest population is Germany (2017 estimated 82.5 million) who in 2014 voted in 96 MEPs, with the same number expected in 2019. France is the second largest, with 79 MEPs.

16. The European People’s Party is the largest political party

The European People’s Party, also known as the Christian Democrats are the largest party in the outgoing parliament making up 28.9%

17. Age is just a number, or is it?

Jean-Marie Le Pen, 90, is currently the oldest MEP
Jean-Marie Le Pen, 90, is currently the oldest MEP

The average age of an MEP is around 55-years-old, with the oldest member from France aged 90. The youngest MEP is 30-years-old and from Belgium.

18. Malta has the highest non-compulsory voting turn out in the MEP elections

Malta has the highest non-compulsory turn out across Europe, with an 82.4% turn out in 2004, a 78.8% turn out in 2009 and a 74.8% turn out in 2014.

19. You can run for MEP election in any member state

You don’t have to be a national of the country you’re living in to stand for the MEP elections, your country of origin just has to be a member of the European Union.

However, special rules apply in Luxembourg because non-nationals make up more than 20% of the total electorate there. Therefore in Luxembourg, a person is required to have lived in the country for a longer period than five years.

20. You can only vote once

This may seem obvious, but it means if you're living abroad and plan to vote there, you can't go home and vote as well, so choose wisely!  

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