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ABSTRACT

The composition of the directly elected European Parliament does not precisely reflect the “real” balance of political forces in the European Community. As long as the national political systems decide most of what there is to be decided politically, and everything really important, European elections are additional national second-order elections. They are determined more by the domestic political cleavages than by alternatives originating in the EC, but in a different way than if nine first-order national elections took place simultaneously. This is the case because European elections occur at different stages of the national political systems' respective “electoral cycles”. Such a relationship between a second-order arena and the chief arena of a political system is not at all unusual. What is new here, is that one second-order political arena is related to nine different first-order arenas. A first analysis of European election results satisfactorily justifies the assumption that European Parliament direct elections should be treated as nine simultaneous national second-order elections.