NEWS

New election law sharpens political climate

An intensifying pre-election climate sharpened further on Monday following the government’s announcement that it aims to change the way members of the European Parliament are elected during the elections in May in order to boost citizen involvement and voter turnout.

Leftist SYRIZA and other opposition parties issued angry statements after the government revealed 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.

For more than three decades, each party has had to provide a list of candidates in numerical order. Then, based on the percentage of the vote each party gets, the top name or names on the list were elected as MEPs.

According to the new proposed system, MEPs will be elected based on the party’s share of the vote but also on how many votes each candidates get, known as preferential voting. This means that voters in the European Parliament elections on May 25 will be given a list of candidates in alphabetical order and will have to put a cross next to one of the 42 candidates they want to vote for from the party of their choice.

The government insists this system is more democratic and will give voters more control over determining who represents them on the European decision-making level.

The new system will also relieve political leaders of pressures from within their parties to choose specific candidates. It will be useful for PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, who has backed a new center-left initiative known as the “Movement of the 58” but will not be obliged to choose a leader for the party’s ticket in elections.

The drawbacks of the new system include the fact that it puts incumbent MEPs on a level playing field with new candidates. Some, notably former PASOK ministers Yiannis Ragousis and Anna Diamantopoulou, argued that the new system would benefit wealthier candidates.

Opposition parties focused neither on the particular benefits or drawbacks of the change, taking the opportunity instead to lash out at the government. SYRIZA referred to “another hopeless attempt by the two-party government to avoid electoral disaster” while former coalition partner Democratic Left (DIMAR) spoke of “unacceptable politicking.”

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