Euro MPs call for common electoral system (FWD)

Sun Jul 19 22:08:11 PDT 1998

D- The below is one of the most important events in world political history.
Euro MPs call for common electoral system, wages

By Nick Antonovics
STRASBOURG, France, July 15 (Reuters) - The European Parliament took a small
step on Wednesday to fulfilling a 40-year-old democratic dream, agreeing on a
proposal for its 627 members to be elected in a similar way. 

The proposal, which the assembly would like approved by European Union nations
in time for EU-wide elections to the assembly next June, comes on the heels of
a separate demand made this week for members to be paid the same amount. 

``We are going one step further towards implementing the (1957) Treaty of
Rome, which called for a uniform electoral procedure for the European
Parliament,'' Dutch Liberal member Gijs de Vries said in a debate on the

The assembly was originally set up as a talking shop for national
parliamentarians before direct elections became the sole criteria for
selecting members in 1979. 

Elections are now held every five years. However, some countries, notably
France and Italy, continue to allow national parliamentarians to also sit in
the EU assembly - a factor often cited to explain low turnout by members at
many meetings. 

The proposal on electoral procedures, if adopted by EU nations, would scrap
these ``dual mandates'' and force countries with a population over 20 million
to introduce constituencies in time for the assembly's 2004 elections. 

All countries would be obliged to hold elections using a system of
proportional representation (PR) -- in practice not a major change since
mainland Britain, the only EU country still using a ``first past the post''
system, is in the process of adopting a law paving the way for PR to be used
for all European elections, starting next June. 

But in a clear sign that pan-European politics is still viewed by most people
as a utopian ideal, the assembly toned down parts of the proposal calling for
10 percent of its members to be elected from 2009 on the basis of EU-wide

At the back of members' minds was the fact enlargement to eastern Europe will
likely mean that each existing EU nation will have to give up some of the
seats it has in the assembly. EU leaders have already agreed the Parliament
should be limited to a maximum 700 seats. 

The author of the proposal, Greek Christian Democrat member Georgios
Anastassopoulos, admitted also that it did not set out to revolutionise voting
methods in EU elections. 

``It's a very modest proposal, I am conscious of that, but we have seen that
even on simple issues there are still big differences of opinion,''
Anastopoulos told a news conference. 

In practice, nations would be able to chose what form of PR they used and
whether they used thresholds to exclude fringe parties garnering only a small
percentage of the national vote. 

Anastopoulos said he hoped the proposal had a ``reasonable chance'' of being
adopted quickly, saying many EU countries had already signalled they could
live with the bulk of the ideas. 

Officials warned however of potential trouble ahead, citing failure this month
by the French government to get its own proposal ending dual mandates through
the French parliament. 

Anastopoulos noted also that Spain may not accept the introduction of local
constituencies for the elections, because of its fiercely independent Catalan
and Basque regions. 

10:05 07-15-98 

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