Verkiezingsborden in Den Haag. Nationaal Archief. Fotocollectie Anefo. Foto: Koen Suyk
Verkiezingsborden in Den Haag. Nationaal Archief. Fotocollectie Anefo. Foto: Koen Suyk

The first European Elections in 1979: Stand up for Europe!

Election signs in The Hague. National Archives. Anefo photo collection. Photo: Koen Suyk

On Thursday 6 June, we can go to the ballot box to cast our vote for the European Parliament. In the coming weeks, we will highlight a number of interesting articles around this topic in the 'Europe, pretty important' section.

This year marks 45 years since citizens of European member states were first allowed to vote for the European Parliament. 1979 marked the first time MEPs were directly elected. Until then, the European Parliament consisted of members delegated by national parliaments. They had a complicated position because they had to divide their time between their national parliament and the European Parliament, whilst also lacking the direct mandate of the electorate. Many expected that the European Parliament could gain power and influence through the new electoral procedure. The full-time availability of MEPs could contribute to this, as well as their authority gained through direct election. In line with that reasoning, however, the legitimacy of a directly elected MEP depended on the percentage of eligible voters who would actually vote. The Dutch government, therefore, put a lot of energy and money into campaigns aimed at boosting turnout. 'Stand up for Europe!' was the slogan, but there were also counter-reactions and arguments that the campaign was too one-sided and pro-European.[1]

In 'Stand up for Europe!', CPG researchers Hilde Reiding and Lennaert van Heumen describe the first European elections and the campaign towards them. Stand up for Europe! is part of the publication New voters, new opportunities. The relevant article can be found on pp.28-32.

Literature reference

[1] Gerrit Voerman en Nelleke van de Walle (2009) Met het oog op Europa. Affiches voor de Europese verkiezingen 1979—2009. Amsterdam: Boom, p 29.

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Centre for Parliamentary History
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