Direct elections to the European Parliament are held every 5 years. In these elections, EU citizens choose who will represent their interests in the European Parliament.
European Parliament elections take place within a 4-day period, normally in June, all over the European Union. Elections to the European Parliament in 2019 were held between 23 and 26 May 2019. In Ireland the day for the election is set by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
Voting practices can vary between different EU countries. MEPs are elected according to national electoral systems, but these have to observe certain common provisions established by EU law, for instance, they must all guarantee equality of the sexes and a secret ballot. This infographic (pdf) gives an overview of voting rules in all EU states.
You can read more about the voting procedures in European elections in Ireland.
Who can become a Member of the European Parliament (MEP)?
To be eligible for election as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) you must:
- Be a citizen of Ireland or a resident EU citizen
- Be over 21 years of age
You are disqualified from being an MEP if you are:
- Disqualified by EU or national law
- A candidate for election in another Member State
- A person of unsound mind
- Presently in prison serving a term greater than 6 months
There are certain jobs that you cannot hold if you are elected as an MEP, including:
- Minister or Minister of State
- Member of the Houses of the Oireachtas
- Member of the judiciary
- Civil Servant
- Whole-time member of the Defence Forces
Who can vote in a European election?
Every Irish citizen aged 18 and over can vote in the European election. If you are an Irish citizen but you are living in another EU country you can vote in that country.
If you are from another EU Member State but are living in Ireland you can vote in the European election in Ireland. To do so your name has to be on the register of electors. If you are an EU citizen but have not registered to vote at a previous European election in Ireland you must apply for registration and complete a statutory declaration form (EP1)(pdf). The statutory declarations are sent to your home Member State to make sure people are not voting twice.
You cannot vote in the European election in more than one constituency or country.
How are candidates nominated for election to the European Parliament?
You may nominate yourself as a candidate or be nominated by a voter from the constituency. A candidate may only be nominated in one constituency.
To be nominated or nominate yourself for membership of the European Parliament, you must do one of the following:
- Produce a Certificate of Party Affiliation
- Produce 60 statutory declarations of assentors who are registered voters in the constituency (Form EP2A must be completed by assentors and witnessed by a Commissioner for Oaths, Peace Commissioner, Notary Public, member of the Garda Síochána or official of the registration authority)
- Pay a deposit of €1,800
To apply, you must get a nomination paper from the returning officer for your constituency. You can get contact information for the returning officer for your constituency from the Franchise Section of your local authority. The returning officer must rule on whether a nomination paper is valid within one hour of receiving it.
The period for the nomination of candidates starts about 6 weeks before polling day and lasts 1 or 2 weeks depending on the nationality of the candidate.
How are MEPs replaced?
There are no by-elections for the European Parliament. If an MEP dies or resigns, the vacancy is filled from a replacement list. Before the close of European election nominations, each registered political party or independent candidate may submit a list of up to 6 replacement candidates to the returning officer.
If an MEP dies or resigns, the person who is at the top of his or her replacement list and is willing to become an MEP fills the vacancy.
Candidate spending and donation limits
The spending limit for a candidate in a European election is €230,000. A statement in writing of all election expenses must be submitted to the Standards in Public Offices Commission within 56 days of polling day.
An MEP or a candidate at a European election may not accept a donation greater than €1,000 in any year from the same donor. Any donations over €600 must be reported to the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO). Candidates are not allowed to accept anonymous donations greater than €100 - any such donations must be surrendered to SIPO.
Read more about the rules for candidate spending and donations limits.