1979 European Parliament election

The 1979 European elections were parliamentary elections held across all 9 (at the time) European Community member states. They were the first European elections to be held, allowing citizens to elect 410 MEPs to the European Parliament, and also the first international election in history.

Seats in the Parliament had been allocated to the states according to population, and in some cases were divided into constituencies, but members sat according to political groups.

European Parliament election, 1979

7–10 June 1979

All 410 seats to the European Parliament
206 seats needed for a majority
  No image Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F061785-0005, Hamburg, CDU-Bundesparteitag, Egon Klepsch (cropped) No image
Leader Ernest Glinne Egon Klepsch James Scott-Hopkins
Leader's seat Belgium (French) Germany Hereford and Worcester
Last election N/A N/A N/A
Seats won 113 107 64
Seat change N/A N/A N/A
Percentage 27.6% 26.1% 15.6%

  Giorgio Amendola 1972 Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F052010-0020, Kiel, FDP-Bundesparteitag, Bangemann No image
Leader Giorgio Amendola Martin Bangemann Christian de La Malène
Leader's seat Central Italy Germany France
Last election N/A N/A N/A
Seats won 44 40 22
Seat change N/A N/A N/A
Percentage 10.7% 9.8% 5.4%

European Parliament election, 1979

Majority Leader-Elect



The Treaty of Rome which established the Communities specified that the European Parliament must be elected by universal suffrage using a common voting system. The Council of the European Union was responsible for setting up the elections but it had procrastinated. As a stop-gap measure, members were appointed to the Parliament by the member states from their own national parliaments, as they had done since the Common Assembly.[1] The Parliament was unhappy with this and threatened to take the Council to the European Court of Justice. The Council eventually agreed to elections and the first European Parliament elections were held in 1979 after proposals were put forward in the mid 1970s.[1][2] The issue of a common voting method was left undecided, and even to this day the voting methods vary from member state to member state, although all have used some form of proportional representation since 1999.


Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F056098-0019, Nürnberg, SPD Europa-Wahlkampf, Schmidt
Helmut Schmidt on the campaign trail in 1979

The campaigns varied. The former Social Democrat German Chancellor Willy Brandt took an international campaign to France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands to boost the Socialist group. On the other hand, the former Prime Minister of France Jacques Chirac used the election to gauge his popularity against the then-President of France Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, in anticipation of a presidential bid in 1981.[3]


In June, the 410 members were elected by universal suffrage. At the time there were no rules on the system of election to be used. The United Kingdom used a plurality voting system for multiple small constituencies in England, Wales and Scotland but the other member states used proportional representation for fewer larger constituencies (usually the member state itself as a single constituency), albeit with different methods of seat allocation.

The electorate took little interest[3] but average voter turnout was 63%. The lowest turn out was in the United Kingdom with 32.2%: all others were above 50% apart from Denmark. Aside from Belgium and Luxembourg, where voting is compulsory, the highest turnout was in Italy with 84.9%.[4]

Final results

Socialist parties working together under the Europe-wide Confederation of Socialist Parties won the most seats: the resultant Socialist group had 113 MEPs. Christian Democrat parties united within the pan-European European People's Party came second, with the resultant group having 107 MEPs. The largest third force was the Conservative European Democrats with 64, followed by Communists with 44. The Liberal Democrats had 40 seats, although their candidate was elected as President.

The groups formed were loose coalitions based on the groups founded in previous years, but they soon became the basis for modern European political parties.

National distribution of seats
State Seats State Seats
 France 81  West Germany 81
 Italy 81  United Kingdom 81
 Netherlands 25  Belgium 24
 Denmark 16  Ireland 15
 Luxembourg 6  
European Parliament election, 1979 - Final results at 17 July 1979
Group Description Chaired by MEPs
  SOC Social Democrats Ernest Glinne 113 European Parliament Composition 1979
  EPP Christian Democrats Egon Klepsch 107
  ED Conservatives James Scott-Hopkins 64
  COM Communists and the Far Left Giorgio Amendola 44
  LD Liberals and Liberal Democrats Martin Bangemann 40
  EPD National Conservatives Christian de La Malène 22
  CDI Heterogeneous Marco Pannella
Neil Blaney
Jens-Peter Bonde
  NI Independents none 9 Total: 410 Sources: [1] [2][3][4]

Post election

Simone Veil, gymnase Japy 2008 02 27 n5
Simone Veil, elected as the first female President

Louise Weiss, who was 86 at the time, was found to be Parliament's oldest member and hence presided over the chamber while the election of the President took place (July 1979). Before that could happen however, she immediately had to deal with Ian Paisley MEP who, in the first speech of the session, protested that the British flag outside the building was flying upside down.[5] She dealt with the interruption swiftly. The confrontation was seen as one of her finest hours and she later confided that, as a grandmother, she was used to dealing with "recalcitrant youngsters".[6]

There were five candidates for President of the European Parliament: Giorgio Amendola, Italian Communist; Emma Bonino, Italian Technical Independent; Christian de La Malène, French Progressive Democrat; Simone Veil, French Liberal, and Mario Zagari, Italian Socialist.[7]

In the first ballot, Veil secured 183 of the 380 votes cast – eight short of the absolute majority needed. The next closest contender was Zagari with 118 votes, then Amendola with 44, de la Malène with 26 and Bonino with 9. Bonino and de la Malène dropped out and Veil secured an absolute majority in the second ballot with 192 of the 377 votes cast (Zagari gained 128 and Amendola 47). Veil was elected as the first President of the elected Parliament, and first female President of the Parliament since it was founded in 1952.[7]

The following were elected as Vice-Presidents: Danielle De March, Basil de Ferranti, Bruno Friedrich, Guido Gonella, Gérard Jacquet, Hans Katzer, Poul Møller, Pierre Pflimlin, Bríd Rodgers, Marcel Albert Vandewiele, Anne Vondeling and Mario Zagari.[7]

Previously the Parliament was a weak consultative assembly, the members of which were part-time. With the elections the new body of MEPs were full-time, energetic and more diverse. As soon as the Parliament was established the "old guard" MEPs of the larger parties sought to raise the bar at which a European Parliament political group could be formed (the status gave financial support and representation in committees). This move was quickly blocked by smaller groups working together and filibustering the proposal. The ties formed at this time laid the foundations of the Rainbow group: an alliance of left-wing and green parties[1] which later became the European Greens–European Free Alliance group.


See also


  1. ^ a b c Hoskyns, Catherine; Michael Newman (2000). Democratizing the European Union: Issues for the twenty-first Century (Perspectives on Democratization. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-5666-6.
  2. ^ Patijn Report
  3. ^ a b Electing a New Parliament, Time Magazine 11 June 1979
  4. ^ Rates of participation in European elections (1979–2004) on CVCE website
  5. ^ Matthew Tempest and agencies Paisley to stand down as MEP, The Guardian, 19 January 2004
  6. ^ A number of names worth remembering ..., European Voice, 26 November 1998
  7. ^ a b c Election of the President of the European Parliament, European Parliament

External links

1979 European Parliament election in Belgium

Elections to the European Parliament were held in Belgium on 10 June 1979. The Dutch-speaking electoral college elected 13 MEPs and the French-speaking electoral college elected 11 MEPs.

1979 European Parliament election in Denmark

The European Parliament election of 1979 in Denmark was the election of the delegation from Denmark to the European Parliament in 1979.

1979 European Parliament election in France

In 1979 the first direct elections to the European Parliament were held in France. Four parties were able to win seats: the centre right Union for French Democracy the Gaullist Rally for the Republic, the Socialist Party and the French Communist Party. 61.7% of the French population turned out on election day.

1979 European Parliament election in Greenland

The European Parliament election of 1979 in Greenland was the election of the delegation from the constituent country Greenland of the Kingdom of Denmark to the European Parliament in 1979.

1979 European Parliament election in Ireland

The 1979 European Parliament election in Ireland was the Irish component of the 1979 European Parliament election. These were the first direct elections to the European Parliament. The election was conducted under the single transferable vote.

1979 European Parliament election in Italy

The first elections for the European Parliament in Italy were held on 10 June 1979.

A week before Italy had voted for its general election: the lack of matching between the two elections caused much controversy for wasting public money.

1979 European Parliament election in Luxembourg

The European Parliament election of 1979 in Luxembourg was the election of the delegation from Luxembourg to the European Parliament on 10 June 1979. It was held on the same day as the legislative elections, which elected members to Luxembourg's Chamber of Deputies.

1979 European Parliament election in Sardinia

The European Parliament election of 1979 took place on 10 June 1979.

Christian Democracy was by far the largest party in Sardinia, with the Italian Communist Party trailing by 7%.

1979 European Parliament election in Veneto

The European Parliament election of 1979 took place on 10 June 1979.

Christian Democracy was by far the largest party in Veneto with 49.1%, while the Italian Communist Party came distant second with 20.3%

1979 European Parliament election in West Germany

The European Parliament election of 1979 in West Germany was the election of the delegation from West Germany to the European Parliament in 1979.

1979 European Parliament election in the Netherlands

The European Parliament election of 1979 in the Netherlands was the election of MEP representing Netherlands constituency for the 1979–1984 term of the European Parliament. It was part of the wider 1979 European election. It was held on 7 June 1979.

Ten parties competed in a D'Hondt type election for 25 seats.

1979 European Parliament election in the United Kingdom

The European Assembly Election, 1979, was the first European election to be held in the United Kingdom after the European Communities (EC) decided to directly elect representatives to the European Parliament. It was held on 7 June. Elections were also held in eight other EC states. European elections were incorporated into UK law by the European Assembly Elections Act 1978. Out of the 410 members of the European Parliament, 81 were elected from the UK. The electoral system was First Past the Post in England, Scotland and Wales (electing 78 MEPs in total) and Single Transferable Vote in Northern Ireland (electing 3 MEPs).

The result was a landslide victory for the Conservative Party, which won 60 of the 78 seats available in England, Wales and Scotland. Their decisive victory in the general election of the previous month and divisions within the Labour party on whether to stay in the EC probably helped the Conservatives to such a comprehensive victory. There was a very low turnout in the election compared with other states, the lowest in Europe. Voter apathy was an explanation, but it is likely the large number of elections in 1979 had a significant negative effect on turnout. There were referendums in Scotland and Wales on devolution in March and the general election in May, as well as local elections in England (not including London) and Wales.

Alf Lomas

Alfred Lomas (born 30 April 1928) is a former British Labour politician who served as MEP for London North East for its entire existence, from the first European election in 1979 to the reorganisation of constituencies in 1999.

Lomas was educated in Stockport, before becoming a solicitor's clerk, a railway signalman, and spending time in the armed forces. He joined the Labour Party and served as a councillor, also becoming a full-time party agent. At thew 1979 European Parliament election, he was elected for London North East, and from 1985 until 1987, he served as the leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party.

Jim Doolan

James Doolan is a former Irish Fianna Fáil politician. He was a member of Seanad Éireann from 1980 to 1981. He was elected to the Administrative Panel of the 14th Seanad at a by-election in April 1980, following the election of Liam Burke to the Dáil. He was not re-elected at the 1981 Seanad election. He was an unsuccessful Fianna Fáil candidate for the Connacht–Ulster constituency at the 1979 European Parliament election. He was an unsuccessful candidate at the 1993 and 1997 Seanad elections. He is a former professor at University College Galway.

Joe Fox (politician)

Christopher Joseph "Joe" Fox (4 April 1931 – 1 October 1981) was an Irish Fianna Fáil politician. A farmer and auctioneer, Fox was elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin County North constituency at the 1977 general election but lost his seat at the 1981 general election. He was an unsuccessful candidate at the 1979 European Parliament election in the Dublin constituency. He was also a member of Dublin County Council.

List of elections in 1979

The following elections occurred in the year 1979.

List of members of the European Parliament for Ireland, 1979–84

This is a list of the 15 Members of the European Parliament for Ireland elected at the 1979 European Parliament election. They served in the 1979 to 1984 session.

United Labour Party (Northern Ireland)

The United Labour Party was a minor political party in Northern Ireland.

The party was founded in June 1978 by Paddy Devlin, formerly of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and a group of former Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP) members, including John Coulthard and Bob Kidd. Devlin had been expelled from the SDLP after accusing it of no longer being socialist, while the party viewed the NILP as having become sectarian.The party held that the partition of Ireland could only be ended if endorsed by the majority of people in Northern Ireland, and called for legal changes to reduce the power of any future Northern Ireland Executive. It described its long-term aim as the establishment of a democratic socialist government in Northern Ireland, and aimed to achieve this through working with other labour groups throughout the British Isles, including the British Labour Party and Irish Labour Party.Devlin stood as a United Labour Party candidate in the 1979 European Parliament election but polled just 6,122 first preferences (1.1% of those cast) and thereby lost his deposit. In the same year, Kidd stood for the party in South Antrim at the UK general election, winning 2.6% of the votes. The party's only other contest was Brian Caul, who stood in the Belfast South by-election, 1982, winning just 0.7% of the votes cast.In 1987, the group joined with the NILP and other small groups to form the Labour '87 coalition.

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