Opposition parties slam government over plans to change way MEPs are elected

Opposition parties reacted angrily on Monday to the government’s announcement that it aims to change the way MEPs are elected in European Parliament elections in May.

The government revealed over the weekend that it wants MEPs to be elected according to how many votes each wins rather than where they are placed on each party’s electoral list.

Since 1981, each party has had to provide a list of candidates in numerical order, also called a closed list. Then, based on the percentage of the vote each party gets, the top name or names on the list are elected as MEPs.

Now, the government wants MEPs to be elected based on the party’s share of the vote but also on how many votes each candidates get, also known as preferential voting. As a result, voters in the European Parliament elections on May 25 will have to put a cross next to one of the 42 candidates they want to vote from each of the parties of their choice.

“Society will now have the say in who represents us in the European Parliament,” said Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis, who is responsible for preparing legislation for this electoral change.

Opposition parties, however, are not convinced that the change will allow voters to have greater control over who represents Greece in Brussels and Luxembourg. They argue that the government has made the change to give New Democracy and PASOK a better chance in the May polls.

SYRIZA accused the government of “playing games,” while former coalition partner Democratic Left (DIMAR) described the move as “unacceptable politicking”. The opposition parties argue that the change means there will not be a level playing field and that candidates who have money to campaign strongly will have an advantage.

The proposed change also comes after the government changed the law so that the European Parliament elections coincide with the first rather than second round of voting in local elections. This also upset opposition parties because voter turnout is traditionally lower on the second Sunday. This was also seen as a move designed to improve the government’s prospects in the May elections.