Explainer | The European Parliament elections and the Maltese candidates

The next European elections will take place on 23 to 26 May 2019, with all the European Union’s member states voting to elect their representatives to the European Parliament

Who is being elected?

There are currently 751 members of the European Parliament, known as MEPs. This is the limit set in the Treaties.

When the United Kingdom leaves the European Union – still expected to happen on 29 March 2019 – that number will shrink to 705 MEPs. The mandate of Britain’s 73 MEPs will lapse when the UK withdraws, and 46 of its 73 seats will be placed in a reserve, to be allocated to new countries which join the bloc in the future.


How many MEPs does each country have?

This depends on the country’s population. Germany has 96 MEPs, while Malta, Cyprus and Luxembourg have six each.

However, 14 EU countries, which are currently slightly under-represented, will be seeing an increase in their number of seats. The remaining 27 seats that belonged to the UK (and which won’t be kept in reserve) will be re-distributed amongst them, as follows:

  • The number of French MEPs will grow from 74 to 79, while Spanish MEPs will increase from 54 to 59
  • Italy and the Netherlands will each gain three seats, going from 73 to 76 and 26 to 29 respectively
  • Ireland will increase its number of MEPs from to 11 to 13.
  • Denmark, Estonia, Croatia, Austria, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Finland, and Sweden will all be allocated one additional seat
  • The number of MEPs which Malta has - six - will remain the same. Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Hungary, Portugal, and Slovenia will also maintain the same number the currently have


How are MEPs elected?

The individual countries are free to choose the electoral formula for the allocation of their share of seats in the European Parliament, as long as that formula used ensures proportional representation.

Most member states use a list system. In some of these, voters can only vote for a party, without the possibility of changing the order of candidates on the list – this is known as a closed list. In other member states, voters can express their preference for one or more candidates, known as preferential voting – known as an open list.

In the case of Malta and Ireland (and Northern Ireland before the UK’s withdrawal), the single-transferable vote (STV) system is used. This allows voters to have one vote, but they can rank candidates in order of their first, second, third preference, etc.


What do MEPs do?

MEPs are elected representatives within the EU who are meant to represent the interests of their local constituents. The European Parliament has, progressively through the treaties, been given additional powers, in an effort to increase the EU’s democratic legitimacy. It remains the only institution at European level that is directly elected by EU citizens.

The European Commission presents legislative proposals to the European Council and European Parliament, where MEPs negotiate the legislation with national government minister. The proposals can only become law if both institutions agree them to.

MEPs also have a major say when it comes to certain important budgetary areas – such as regional funds and agriculture – and they can put pressure on the European Commission to legislate on specific issues.

They can also act on matters raised to them by their voters, who can turn to them directly.

Euro-parliamentarians must give their consent to EU trade agreements with third countries, and when it comes to admitting new members into the Union


Which groups form the European Parliament?

MEPs are elected from their own national parties, but, once elected, most of them join European-level groups made up of parties from other countries that hold similar political views.

There were eight political groups in the 2014-2019 European Parliament:

  • EPP (European People's Party – Christian Democrats) - centre-right, support more EU integration
  • Socialist (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) – main centre-left group
  • Conservative (European Conservatives and Reformists) – seek reform within the EU
  • Liberal (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – centrist group, highly in favour of more integration
  • Left (Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left) – left-wing group containing socialist and communist parties
  • Green (Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance) – group of parties representing regional interests and green parties
  • EFD (Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy) – rightist, averse to more integration
  • ENF (Europe of Nations and Freedom) – launched in 2015, an alliance of rightist political parties which is projected to see a substantial increase in seats


What is the electoral procedure?

The election will take place over the space of four days, with countries divided in groups to vote over different days.

Malta will vote on 25 May, which will mark the first use of a new electronic vote counting system, which is expected to lead the faster announcement of results.


The EP elections in Malta at a glance

Voting day: May 25 • Voting is voluntary

Voting age: 16

Voting system: Single transferable vote

Number of registered voters: 341,856 (2017)

Seats in the European Parliament: 6



Labour Party: Alfred Sant, Mary Gauci, Lorna Vassallo, Robert Micallef, Cyrus Engerer, Alex Agius Saliba, Felix Busuttil, Miriam Dalli, James Grech, Joe Sammut, Josianne Cutajar, Fleur Vella, Noel Cassar and Josef Caruana

Nationalist Party: Roberta Metsola, Francis Zammit Dimech, David Casa, Dione Borg, Frank Psaila, Peter Agius, Michael Briguglio, David Stellini, Roselyn Borg Knight and Michael Mercieca

Democratic Party: Camilla Appelgren, Anthony Buttigieg, Martin Cauchi Inglott, Godfrey Farrugia

Alternattiva Demokratika: Carmel Cacopardo and Mina Tolu

Independent: Arnold Cassola, Antoine Borg, Nazzareno Bonnici, Stephen Florian, Joseph Aquilina, Mario Borg

Alleanza Bidla: Ivan Grech Mintoff, Rebecca Dalli Gonzi

Imperium Europa: Norman Lowell

Moviment Patrijotti Maltin: Simon Borg, Naged Megally

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