It wasn’t only three Swedish MEPs pushing the wrong button in yesterday’s critical Copyright Directive vote in Strasbourg. Now that the official minutes of the plenary session are now published, it reveals 13 MEPs didn’t vote as they intended.
Had only three of them pushed the button they were supposed to, the Directive could have looked quite different.
So what happened?
Yesterday, we reported how two Sweden Democrats — who were against the Copyright Directive in its entirety — somehow voted to approve it. The Directive was passed in full, and the motion to amend its more controversial Articles lost by a margin of just five votes. Votes cannot be changed afterwards, but it is possible to add to the official record that you’d intended to vote otherwise. The minutes of the session have now been published, and it appears that as many as 13 MEPs had intended to vote differently.
So the possibility of changing the Directive by voting to scrap, for example, Articles 11 and 13, was lost, all because the following representatives pressed the wrong button:
10 MEPs who meant to vote yes to amend the Directive
(but voted no or abstained):
Gerolf Annemans, Flemish Interest Party, BE
Johannes Cornelis van Baalen, People’s Party for Freedom & Democracy, NL
Dita Charanzová, non-affiliated/ANO 2011, CZ
Martina Dlabajová, non-affiliated/ANO 2011, CZ
Antanas Guoga, Liberal Movement, LT
Eva Joly, Europe Ecology — The Greens, FR
Jo Leinen, Social Democratic Party, DE
Peter Lundgren, Sweden Democrats, SE
Michèle Rivasi, Europe Ecology — The Greens, FR
Kristina Winberg, Sweden Democrats, SE
2 MEPs who meant to vote no to amend the directive
(but voted yes):
Marek Plura, Civic Platform, PL
Marita Ulvskog, Social Democratic Party, SE
1 MEP who meant to abstain on amending the directive
(but voted no):
Daniel Buda, National Liberal Party, RO
It’s not possible to find a clear common denominator between the MEPs in question, other than how there was a curious number of Swedes pressing the wrong button, two of whom were Sweden Democrats.
Had all of the above managed to press the right button, the final vote would’ve been 319 for, 314 against, meaning Parliament would’ve had the chance to vote on amendments to the Directive, such as deleting Articles 11 and 13.
Instead, the proposal lost by a five-vote margin. All down to 13 people pressing incorrectly.
How could this happen? Several MEPs argue that there was confusion. During the actual voting, it was clear even to onlookers watching the proceedings. Before the crucial vote on the amendments, the President even stopped to double-check everything was in the right order before continuing.
Everything was in the right order. Some MEPs just hadn’t done their homework.
It should be made clear that MEPs happen to press the wrong button quite often. When the magazine ETC* reviewed Swedish MEPs in 2016, Anna Maria Corazza Bildt (Moderate Party) topped their list, casting 49 wrong votes, followed by Soraya Post (Feminist Initiative) with 24. “The buttons are very close together”, said Soraya Post to ETC* at the time.
Here’s how the buttons in Parliament look:
It seems the bigger problem for MEPs is keeping track of the voting list they bring with them to a voting session. The list is a kind of guide on the order in which they should press the buttons. MEPs vote many times during one day, and employ full-time assistants — both individually and in their party groups — who help to produce the lists.
Ahead of yesterday’s vote, every MEP received a voting list for the session, a so-called ‘indicative voting list’, which outlined the entire voting schedule for the day. A number of amendments were put forward, including deleting Article 13, which all MEPs knew about. All MEPs will also have known that any request to vote on these proposals should, according to procedural rules, happen verbally. It’s therefore not a separate point in the voting list. All Parliament officials are aware of it, and all groups must have prepared their MEPs for it. It’s therefore not a case of ‘chaos’ or an unusual intervention.
During Tuesday’s vote, the President even paused to point out that something hadn’t been quite right in the chamber, and that pause continued before voting was completed. Despite that, 13 people still voted wrong.
There was an unusually high number of incorrect votes, at least compared to how many people reported pressing incorrectly during the day’s other votes. Again, though: nothing in the procedural rules that was unusual.
Speaking to an assistant to one of the MEPs, we discovered that “if you voted wrong because ‘the order changed’, it’ll most likely mean that you’ve not read the procedural rules, otherwise you’d understand amendments can’t be voted on without first approving that vote”.
Had these people read a little, done their homework and been a bit more careful with their keystrokes, yesterday’s result could have looked quite different.
This piece is funded by a Kickstarter campaign to monitor the European Parliament’s Copyright Directive proposal during its final stage of voting. Text and images are supplied under CC BY, a license that makes it free to share and redistribute wherever you want, provided you link back here with appropriate credit.
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Correction: In an earlier version of this article, an incorrect calculation was made of the ‘actual’ end result of the voting, which has now been corrected. The error in the counting was due to the assumption that everyone who voted ‘no’ also voted yes. That was not the case, some had accidentally pressed the middle button ‘abstain’.