Writing for the ePolitix website, Liberal Democrat peer (and the former Acting Returning Officer for many party selection contests) Chris Rennard has argued that the closed lists used to elect MEPs take too much power away from voters:
The ‘closed list’ system introduced for European Elections in 1999 ensured that the parties were represented in the European Parliament according to how the votes were cast. But the particular individuals under consideration were ranked in order of preference by the parties and not by the voters. The nomination of just one person chosen by a party for a particular seat was replaced by the nomination of up to 11 people chosen by the party for a region.
The ‘closed list’ system (just like First Past the Post) denies the voters the power to choose between different candidates from the same party. That is why there was such strong opposition to this particular form of PR in the parliamentary debates in 1999…
Some countries use list systems, but allow voters the power to vary the order of the lists. These are called ‘open list’ systems. Party control freaks don’t like them. But voters find them useful. If, for example, parties only have men at the top of their lists, many women have crossed out their names and insisted that women are elected instead. Either open lists or STV would help to give voters more power and reduce the concentrations of power in party machines. We won’t have European elections until 2014. That’s why I am asking in the House of Lords today if the government will bring forward proposals to increase voter choice when we next choose our MEPs.