MEPs Voting Behaviour: ‘Winning Sides and Grand Coalitions’?

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How do MEPs Vote after Lisbon? tries to shed light on this question in their third six-monthly report on the voting behaviour of the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and their political groups. Dr Sara Hagemann and Simon Hix, respectively, Executive Director and Chairman of, from the London School of Economics presented the insights of the report during its launch last Wednesday the 26th of January at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS). The discussants for this event were MEPs Isabelle Durant (Greens/EFA), Diana Wallis (ALDE), Rafal Trzaskowski (EPP), as well as former MEP Michiel van Hulten.

On 26 Jan at CEPS presented its latest report on the European Parliament. See the coverage...

The report (p. 03) notes that in the 7th European Parliament:

  • MEPs still vote more along transnational party than national lines;
  • The political groups gained greater internal cohesion;
  • The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the largest group, dominates most votes, but not all;
  • The competition between centre-left and -right groups becomes noticeable in areas such as civil liberties, environment, development and gender equality; and,
  • The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) has a pivotal role as it holds the balance of power, but with a strong cohesion the EPP is still able to win against a defective coalition between the ALDE and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats (S&D).


MEPs Voting Behaviour: ‘Winning Sides and Grand Coalitions’?

These findings are derived from the 1.351 roll-call votes (RCV) during the plenary sessions of the first 18 months – from July 2009 till December 2010 – of this Parliament.

The report (p. 4-5) marks ALDE as the ‘winning side’, voting around 88% of the time in line the majority. But remarks the EPP’s rising dominance during the second half of 2010. This is being ascribed, on the one hand, to a growing number of votes related to economic and monetary affairs and, on the other hand, to an effective mobilisation – high cohesion and attendance – of their members. report also shows that #ALDE group is on the winning side of votes more than any other group in the #EP
Michiel van Hulten

The S&D, ALDE, and EPP ‘grand coalition’ dominates 63% of the votes. While the rest of the time there’s a left-right split between S&D and EPP, for example on justice matters. Interesting to note is that ALDE, holding the balance of power, joins forces more often with S&D.

One of the case studies in the report (p. 08) is the recent vote on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) resolution where the centre-right won. But in order to do so, the EPP and the European Conservatives and Reformist’s Group (ECR) first had to reject the centre-left’s joint motion for a resolution. It succeeded in doing so, as 24 MEPs defecting overthrew the S&D and ALDE centre-left coalition.

Cohesion political parties in votes #ep is v high, similar to us congress or national parls, says Votewatch
M van den Broeke

But in general the political groups show a high internal cohesion, which means that their members vote as a block. The exception seems to be agricultural issues, where national delegations (e.g. the French and Scandinavians) vote along national lines. Faas (2003, p. 856) remarks that certain issues have higher defection rates, but these issues differ by country as well as party.

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