• New report reveals randomness in European Parliament voting results

    PRESS RELEASE 2011-11-28
    From EUDemocrats and Organization for European Interstate cooperation

    Members of the European Parliament:
    Do not repeat the mistakes of the 23rd of June vote in Brussels!


    Many mistakes were made in the hour-and-a-half-long Brussels session vote on Thursday, 23rd of June of this year, during which an unacceptable number of MEPs left.
    There were 106 Roll call votes and 22 electronic votes during the one and a half hour of votes the 23rd of June which makes it possible to “map out” how single members, national delegations, and groups took part and voted.
    It was a day of important votes, such as the “six packet” on economic governance in the euro area, and it was “Ordinary legislative procedure (first reading)” which means that the European Parliament had co decision together with the Council on these matters.
    Ten RCVs and ten EVs were decided in votes in which the gap between yes and no was 35 votes or less. There was randomness in results – which members that had left or not influenced the results.
    For example, an important RCV about the amended proposal as a whole from the European Parliament on the surveillance of budgetary positions and surveillance and coordination of economic policies took place after ten MEPs had already left. The groups that voted no and lost by a 30 vote margin could have won if the nine members from ECR, twelve members from S&D and ten members from Verts/ALE that either voted yes or abstained would have voted with their group majorities.

    PPE group should be the master of the EP
    The PPE group is the largest group and should be the master of the European Parliament. If all its 244 voting members stayed for the whole vote, it could have won multiple additional votes. PPE and ALDE won the six close votes connected to the “six packet” on economic governance, but PPE lost the three votes with the closest margins. It was not only because ALDE switched to S&D and ECR’s side, but also because 16-17 of its MEPs voted contrary to the majority of the group and more than ten MEPs from the PPE had already left.

    A tobacco vote with a random result
    The vote on the Balzani report on the 2012 draft budget trilogue (Budgetary procedure), amendment 8 part 2/Delete, in which only six votes separated yes and no, is an interesting vote to analyze in the context of national interest.
    An Italian MEP from PPE tabled an amendment to delete paragraph 46 in the proposed report. At the vote the paragraph was split in two, and the decision to delete the second part, “and regrets the continued subsidising of the tobacco production in the EU, which is contrary to the objectives of the EU health policy;” was decided with only six votes separating yes and no.
    291 MEPs voted no to delete this text from the report, 285 voted yes. The PPE was cohesive in deleting this part and they got support from tobacco growing countries’ MEPs in S&D. The Italians mostly voted yes to delete the text. Twelve Italians either left the plenary before this vote or did not vote, however, and of these twelve Italians, nine belong to the PPE. If these nine Italian PPE members would have voted, the text would have been deleted. Even so, this is an example of how national interests over power group discipline in the European Parliament.

    Proposals to solve the problem of random voting results in the EP
    The European Parliament has to solve this problem of a decreasing attendance during longer votes. With every new treaty, the European Parliament has increased political influence within the European Union. It needs to show that it takes responsibility to adjust its voting procedure according to this increased political responsibility.

    • Voting must be given more time in the schedule.
    • More time must be given to the MEPs to vote when there is a RCV. To have four RCVs in one minute is too stressful. The members must get more time to press the vote button. Ideally, they should have at least 20 seconds for each vote.
    • If the MEPs have been voting for more than an hour and a half and still have not completed the list, the rest of the votes must be postponed until the next day or the next session.
    • Groups must demand that their members are present when there is a vote. Tougher rules should be implemented that reduce allowances if MEPs are absent from too many sessions over the course of the year.
    • MEPs should be able to take sick leave or parental leave from the European Parliament. Substitute members should be called in if a MEP is on leave for more than 30 days.
    • Some sort of pairing system between the groups in the European Parliament should be created. Those that work in the European Parliament should consider this further.

    In the end, however, the group leaderships and the MEPs themselves share the largest responsibility to ensure that randomness does not dictate vote results.

    The report can be read at this link: ep.voting.behaviour.23.06.2011
    Further questions about this report can be answered by: Jan A Johansson, jaj@eudemocrats.org