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Most, if not all, democratic countries in Europe elect representatives to the national legislature by some form of secret ballot. For example the UK uses secret election on the first-past-the-post system.

In the UK, however, votes in Parliament are done publicly. The members of parliament walk down one of two corridors and are counted. An MP cannot vote against their party position secretly. Similarly, in Australia and in the USA, votes by representatives, senators, MPs, and members of the electoral college are not secret.

However according to Is there any political party in a EU country that has a leadership that virtually bypasses secret voting by asking its MPs not to vote?, voting in the Romanian Legislature is secret.

Is voting by Romanian legislators truly secret? Which other European countries have secret voting by representatives in the national legislature?

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    Apart from the election of a Speaker (and possibly other officers), I doubt it. Even when the House of Commons votes by ballot (a so-called "Deferred Division"), that's still recorded and publicly available for each MP. – Joe C Jun 26 at 21:34
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    This seems at least on the edge of being Too Broad. Note that to properly answer this, one should say whether the votes in every European country are secret or not. Just answering for a single country does not answer this question. – Brythan Jun 27 at 1:51
  • As Joe said the Speaker's election in the UK is by secret ballot. parliament.uk/business/commons/the-speaker/… though the outcome could not be improved for the government by asking their MPs not to vote. – Jontia Jun 27 at 6:28
  • Four answers, and not one of them clearly answers "Is voting by Romanian legislators truly secret?", which has been in the question since the first version. – T.J. Crowder Jun 27 at 16:20
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The EU parliament itself seems to have a procedure to use secret ballots in some cases:

Normally MEPs vote by show of hands, and the President of the sitting determines the majorities in each case. If the show of hands is unclear, the president calls for an electronic vote to secure a more precise result. A roll call vote must be taken if requested by a political group or at least 40 Members the evening before the vote. In this case, the individual vote cast by each MEP is recorded and published in an annex to the minutes, unless voting by secret ballot has also been requested.

As to specific countries, the EP published a document on voting by secret ballot in the Member State parliaments which seems to have the answer to your question:

Of the 20 Member State parliaments which took part in a survey carried out at the request of the secretariat of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs by the European Centre for Parliamentary Research and Documentation (ECPRD), 10, i.e. those in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain, make provision for secret ballots except where decisions involving persons, such as elections, appointments, etc., are concerned. Conversely, the parliaments of the 10 other Member States, i.e. those in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom, may not employ secret ballots in similar circumstances.

It goes on to list the specifics in each relevant cases. To quote a few:

Germany

The secret ballot exists in the Bundestag only for elections (Rule 49 of the Rules of Procedure). The Bundesrat's Rules of Procedure do not provide for secret votes.

Spain

Voting shall be secret if so requested by fifty Senators at a Plenary Sitting or by one-third of the members of a committee.

France

Secret ballots are employed for appointments (election of the Presidents of the Chambers and of the Bureau).

Italy

The Rules of Procedure of both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate limit secret ballots to votes on persons and on amendments to these Rules. More generally, they may be requested where votes touch upon the fundamental rights and liberties enshrined in the Constitution, the Senate extending this right to the rights of the family and of the person.

United Kingdom

The Standing Orders contain no provision for vote by secret ballot in divisions of the House. In the House of Commons, with the exception of provisions for the election of the Speaker of the House, when there is more than one candidate, there are no provisions for secret ballots.

There might be a more recent version somewhere that covers the most recent batches of EU members.


As an aside, a thing to keep in mind is that whether legislatures should be using secret ballots or not was hotly debated in parts of Europe at one point. In contrast with the UK, the US, and former British holdings, where the practice of democracy was reasonably well established by modern times, a lot of Europe was introduced to parliamentary practice at gunpoint by Revolutionary France. And it was quite a time...

As explained in this paper that goes through France's debate on the topic specifically, French MPs initially voted in public. But in the days of the French Revolution, it ended up meaning MPs got pressured, catcalled, threatened by mobs, or worse. The MPs complained that, because their votes were public, they couldn't play their proper role as elective representatives and vote with their conscience. Which, in plain English, meant they didn't want to get guillotined because of their voting record.

As a result, French MPs ended up using secret ballots for a few decades. It was only later in the 19th century, when the dust had settled and democratic practice was more established, that the use of secret ballots in the French parliament got repelled.

  • The EP allows secret voting, but that's done very rarely: It was used in the last period once and that was the first time as far as most members remember. – Martin Schröder Jun 27 at 13:55
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Which other European countries have secret voting by representatives in the national legislature?

There are countries where (at least some) votes by representatives in the national legislature are secret. For example, the Netherlands.

The Dutch House of Representatives uses written voting when voting about people. In Dutch (from parlement.com):

Stemmingen over personen (benoemingen, voordrachten, keuzen) worden schriftelijk gedaan.

De aanwezige leden vullen de naam van een kandidaat in op een briefje en deponeren dat in een stembus waarmee een bode rondgaat. Een ad hoc-commissie van vier leden telt de uitgebrachte stemmen, en meldt de uitslag aan de Kamervoorzitter.

Translated (by me):

Votes about people (appointments, nominations, choices) are done in written form.

Members who are present fill in the name of the candidate on a piece of paper and deposit it in a ballot box which a staff member will bring around. An ad-hoc commission of four members counts the votes and reports the result to the speaker.

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Like The Netherlands, Belgium has provisions for secret voting ('geheime stemming' in Dutch) in the rules of the federal parliament

Relevant passages:

art. 58 2) De stemming bij naamafroeping geschiedt bij naamstemming of bij geheime stemming.

art. 58 4) De geheime stemming is verplicht voor benoemingen en voor- drachten. Ze verloopt overeenkomstig artikel 157.

art.121 14) Over de voorstellen om naturalisatie te verlenen geschiedt de geheime stemming per lijst [..]

art. 157 1) Alle benoemingen en voordrachten waartoe de Kamer moet overgaan, geschieden bij geheime stemming en bij volstrekte meerderheid, tenzij de Grondwet of de wet in een andere meer- derheid voorziet.

Which translate to:

The vote at roll call happens by name vote or secret vote.

A secret vote is compulsory for appointments and nominations.

Regarding proposals of naturalization, the vote takes place in secret, by lists [..]

All appointments and nominations with which the chamber is charged, happen by secret vote and absolute majority, unless a different majority is specified in the constitution.

Similar rules apply for all other parliaments on the same level as the federal parliament. A special case is specified in the rules of the Flemish parliament allows for a secret vote of confidence when instating a new government in case of a stalemate in voting.

While votes for nominations and appointments on more local levels are generally public, stalemates are also resolved by secret votes (This almost never happens, but was almost triggered in Ninove in 2018).

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The UK Parliament (in both chambers) also has voting by voice. Indeed, divisions - where the members troop into the lobbies to be counted for or against - are preceded by a voice vote, and the division only takes place if the voice vote was contested. It's common for votes on procedural business to be unopposed. Bill amendments often go through without any or much opposition. In these cases, all that's recorded is the decision of the House, not whether any particular member was present, or how they voted.

It goes like this in the Commons:

SPEAKER: The question is ... (whatever it happens to be). As many as are of that opinion, say Aye!

lots of people shout Aye

SPEAKER: Of the contrary, No!

silence

SPEAKER: I think the Ayes have it; the Ayes have it.

Or, if there is a small amount of opposition, like this:

SPEAKER: As many as are of that opinion, say Aye!

lots of people shout Aye

SPEAKER: Of the contrary, No!

a few people shout No

SPEAKER: I think the Ayes have it; the Ayes have it. (Pause for objections). Moving on ...

If at this step there are objections, the Speaker will call for a division. If it's clear that there are quite a few people on the No side, then he'll just call a division without suggesting that either side "has it".

We don't get to find out (formally) who precisely shouted what. So this is not exactly a secret ballot - somebody could notice who shouted which way, and the Whips routinely do just that - but it's still different from the division process where we do get to know who voted which way.

  • Welcome to Politics, I think the question is asking for the opposite, namely legislatures that do have secret voting. – JJJ Jun 27 at 17:03
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In Sweden the election of prime minister is always public voting.(Sker en statsministeromröstning alltid öppet eller kan omröstningen bli sluten?) Up to 1925 the vote of speaker of the parliament was secret, after that it was praxis to have a public vote, but a secret vote may be requested and it was secret in the 2014 election.(SVT)

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