European Elections: Numbers reveal the problem

, by Dimitris Kraniotis

European Elections: Numbers reveal the problem

Since 1979, when the first elections for the European Parliament took place, the turnout has been constantly dropping. Numbers say the whole truth: in 1979, 63% of the European voters participated in elections, in 1984 the percentage dropped by 2%, five years later the turnout was 2,5% less, as well as in 1994 (56,8%). We can therefore observe a 6,2% reduction during fifteen years and four European elections. In the last two elections the abstention was dramatically increased. The turnout in 1999 was 49,8% and four years later, 45,6%. The interest of European people in the European institutions tends to be low and there are many reasons for that.

Again, numbers can be held to be the most indicative tool to describe and sometimes justify a phenomenon, especially when it concerns people’s vote. Approximately 28,000 people participated in the Eurobarometer, which took place in the first two months of 2009 and was published one month later. It gave us quite interesting and significant data about the participation in the elections, the reasons for not voting, the opinions of the European citizens for the European Parliament and their interest about the European affairs. Data, which should be used not only to help us understand and realize the problem but also, face it with more active solutions.

European elections are neither a debate for national issues, nor a tool to gain votes and power.

The Lack of Awareness: “If you do not go to vote in the European elections of June 2009, will it be because...?”. This was the most significant question of the current Eurobarometer. The three most common answers were that people don’t know enough about the role of the European Parliament (64%), that they believe that vote will not change anything (62%) and that they are not sufficiently informed to go and vote (59%). All of these responses show that the European Parliament and the other European institutions should do more to bring European people closer to the European Union and its institutions. A shocking information that also shows the unawareness of people for the European issues and verifies the existence of the problem is that only 16% of the participants knew that the elections will take place in June of 2009, while 62% was not even informed.

The Real Problems: Going back to the previous question, 55% of the participants believe that the European Parliament does not sufficiently deal with problems that concern them. As we can observe from a detailed analysis of the Eurobarometer, the main concerns are unemployment, economic growth, inflation and purchasing power, future of pensions and crime. Therefore, European Parliament should prove that its role is to protect the European citizens and resolve these issues. It ought to remind the existence of the “European Identity”, apart from the national one. It has to make people believe that European Union is not here to apply laws and take pieces of the sovereignty of national states, but to face the real problems of the European citizens. Undeniably, the problems of our age are not local or national. Immigration, unemployment, the current economic crisis, terrorism, environmental and energy issues are some of the problems that can only be solved in a frame of inter-state coordination and cooperation. European Union should gain back the trust of people and make them believe that it has the power to go one step further.

The European Parliament and the other European institutions should do more to bring European people closer to the European Union and its institutions.

National parties and media: National parties and media should play their own role to that effort. National parties have to make clear to the voters that European elections are neither a debate for national issues, nor a tool to gain votes and power. The problem is that the position of the candidates on national issues has -as a criterion of European voters for choosing a candidate- the same importance as the position on European issues. European elections should be clearly divided from the national ones. Media also have a great influence in this issue. According to the Eurobarometer, the media recall about European elections is really low. 60% of the people did not read, see or hear anything about the European Parliament. The media recall is lowest in the United Kingdom, France and Italy.

European Parliament “is the world’s only directly elected transnational and multilingual parliament and the EU’s only directly elected institution”. Especially now, when European Union is “in the middle of the bridge” on its evolution process - being depended on the future of the ratification of Lisbon Treaty - the participation of European people in the elections is quite significant. People should be persuaded that, by voting, they put their own stone in the construction of a stronger and more powerful European Union. A union with a common voice in international affairs. A union with active solutions in the real problems that Europe faces. A European Union that can be regarded as a real player in the world’s politics. All these aims can be materialized by one main thing: people’s strength that can be translated into participation and vote.

- Eurobarometer surveys, source: google images

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