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How do European elections work? | CNBC Explains

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It is one of the biggest democratic exercises in the world.

More than 350 million people across 28 European countries are eligible

to vote for the lawmakers that sit here in the European Parliament.

But with 28 countries voting on different days, each with its own electoral laws and

procedures, it’s bound to get complicated.

The first European parliamentary elections took place back in 1979, when only nine countries

were members of what was then called the European Economic Community.

Since then, that community has expanded into what’s now known as the European Union,

and voters head to the polls every five years to elect the 751 members of the

European parliament or MEPs.

The number of MEPs assigned to each country varies and corresponds to the country’s population.

For example, the EU’s most populous country Germany elects 96 lawmakers,

while Luxembourg only gets six seats.

In some countries like Italy, MEPs represent a specific region.

In others like France, they represent the entire country.

So now let’s get into how all of these MEPs are actually elected.

Voting is open to all EU citizens, and in Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece

and Luxembourg, it’s actually compulsory.

This time around, the elections are spread over four voting days, between May 23rd and 26th.

Here in Belgium, citizens cast their votes on Sunday, whereas the British and the Dutch

have their say on the previous Thursday.