Making the EU a Better Democracy
The politics within the European Union have often been criticised for being undemocratic, remote and lacking transparency. In response to this well-documented 'democratic deficit', the London School of Economics began a research program to better illuminate how the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union operate and to propose reforms to make them more open and democratic.
The author, along with colleagues from New York University and the University of California, Berkeley, began by creating a method for 'collecting, processing and analysing voting within the European Parliament'. One result of this work was the creation of an index to measure the cohesion of voting blocs within a Parliament.
Further research by the author has shown that Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) elected under open-list proportional representation systems do a better job of keeping their citizens informed about their voting records compared to MEPs elected under party-based, closed-list systems.
In 2009 Hix and the London School of Economics established a website, www.votewatch.eu, that collects, analyses and publishes all recorded votes in the European Parliament and the European Council. VoteWatch Europe has developed into 'Europe's leading website for tracking the voting behaviour of elected members and of governments'. It was identified as an example of 'best practice for using e-democracy tools to hold politicians to account' at both the World E-Democracy Forum and the Personal Democracy Forum in 2010.
In response to VoteWatch and other calls for reform, in 2009 the European Parliament changed its rules so that all final legislative votes are recorded by individual member, making the process much more transparent. In addition, the European Council has acted on VoteWatch's proposals for 'more open reporting of its legislative decisions'. Another reform proposal by the author on selecting the President of the European Commission through an Electoral College is currently being considered.
Thumbnail image: Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier/Flickr.