During the 2017 Presidential and Legislative elections in France, much attention was payed to the work of some of the candidates in the European Parliament. The most prominent, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen, ran for the Presidency of the Republic.
In this electoral context, some candidates used manipulative sources to praise their own work in the EP, a trick spotted and addressed promptly by the media. The matter has been clarified by the Franco-German TV Arte and newspaper Liberation, which explain why VoteWatch Europe is the most reliable source of information for understanding the actual activity of MEPs.
When interviewed by two French radios, Florian Philippot claimed to be the 24th most participative among French MEPs in the European Parliament. Philippot, a member of the far-right National Front (FN), quoted MEP Ranking, a website he claimed to be the “official” one and the most used by journalists. However, the specialised facts-checking program, Désintox, concludes that the “baseline ranking used by journalists is VoteWatch Europe”.
Arte and Liberation use VoteWatch Europe to rebuff false claims
According to this program, Florian Philippot tries to make use of a website that is easily manipulated by MEPs. This video explains that Parliamentarians who want to rank up on MEP Ranking just need to submit many written questions or motions for resolutions, although the impact of these instruments on policymaking is insignificant. Also, The media outlet Contexte remarked that National Front MEPs submitted 48% of resolutions tabled by French Parliamentarians, whereas they represent only 27% of the French delegation in the EP. Similarly, the National Front submitted 2274 parliamentary questions since 2014, against 1154 for The Republicans and only 383 for the Socialist Party.
With 306 resolutions submitted, Florian Philippot is ranked 24th by MEP Ranking, out of 74th French Parliamentarians. However, according to Arte, if one looks at the actual attendance of politicians when votes take place in the EP, Philippot is the second least participative French MEP (second from the bottom only to Jean-Marie Le Pen).
Indeed, according to the data provided by VoteWatch Europe, Florian Philippot has voted in the plenary 73.09% of times, ranking 708th in the European Parliament (out of 751 MEPs).
The attendance rate of VoteWatch Europe measures how often MEPs voted by roll-call during the plenary sessions in the European Parliament. Its source of data is the European Parliament itself, from which the information is automatically collected. The index mentioned by Philippot does not measure the attendance, but it is a (convenient) mix of several activities.
The right way to assess the activity of MEPs
VoteWatch Europe surveyed a large number of political experts (more than 200) to weigh the importance of various Parliamentary activities and positions. Most of the respondents answered that parliamentary questions, speeches or signing motions should not be considered as reliable indicators of activity or influence and that more concrete activities should be taken into account.
For example, according to the respondents, the reports drafted by MEPs, especially when they regard legislative files, weigh much more than other activities. VoteWatch built an algorithm that ranks the influence of Parliamentarians based on elements such as chairmanship of committees, participation in votes, percentage of votes won, leadership of political groups and many others. The weightings and the criteria of our assessment are public and open to feedback from citizens and stakeholders alike.
VoteWatch is going to update this assessment of influence in the following months, also taking into account the feedback we receive. The purpose is to raise awareness about the work of MEPs so that citizens and stakeholders get to know better who is actually shaping EP policies on their behalf.