Citizens and the Elections

  • Valentine Herman
  • Juliet Lodge


The extension of the franchise to.EC publics will not necessarily by itself augment the representativeness and legitimacy of the European Parliament. It will, however, represent a step towards increasing the element of democracy in the Community. It will also ensure that citizens are represented in the Parliament by those whom they have elected. By contrast, the extent to which the representativeness of the Parliament is increased will depend on the electoral systems adopted by the member states for, and on the level of turn-out at, the European elections. If turn-out were low, it could be argued that the directly elected Parliament were hardly more representative than its predecessor and that, therefore, its claims to greater decision-making powers were no more legitimate. From this it is apparent that the European Parliament has a particular interest in stimulating high turn-out. To do this, however, it must perform a number of parliamentary functions it has thus far inadequately fulfilled. These functions are ones normally associated with parliamentary fora in the member states. According to Zellentin:

If one were to base an analysis of the European Parliament on a somewhat simplified form of Bagehot’s classic definition of the functions of a parliament, one would find the following similarities and differences.The elective function (with regard to the executive) is lacking: the European Parliament is not an electoral chamber. The expressive function (‘to express the mind of the … people on all matters which come before it’) would be more effective if there were direct elections. This is also true of the teaching function (‘a great and open council of considerable men cannot be placed in the middle of a society without altering that society’). The informing function is zealously carried on by the European Parliament in order to familiarise the public with the administrative discussions and measures on integration. But it takes part in the legislative function only consulta?tively. As regards Bagehot’s sixth function, namely the financial one, the European Parliament must be consulted during the preparation of the budget, but it is the Council … which has the last word in this matter. Finally, a seventh function should be added, pace Bagehot, which is most important for all developing parliaments of the conti?nental type, namely the control of the executive. For this particular purpose, the motion of censure is in theory the strongest instrument in the European Parliament).1


Member State Linguistic Diversity Political Group National Party Direct Election 
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Copyright information

© Valentine Herman and Juliet Lodge 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valentine Herman
    • 1
  • Juliet Lodge
    • 2
  1. 1.Erasmus UniversityRotterdamNetherlands
  2. 2.University of HullUK

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