Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Motivating People to Vote in the European Elections

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 14th April, 2009

european-electionsAccording to the latest Eurobarometer findings — the European Commission’s opinion poll — barely a third (34%) of the European Union’s electors currently intend to vote in the European elections in June, and nearly two-thirds (62%) believe their vote won’t make a difference. Of course, political campaigning for the elections hasn’t really got underway yet — now that Easter is over, perhaps things will swing into action! — so public awareness of the elections and associated issues can be expected to go up, a little, from now onwards.

Nonetheless, the poll findings are a damning indictment of the way national governments — not least Britain’s — have singularly failed to communicate to their electorates what the EU does and why the European Parliament is important. The media must also shoulder a big part of the blame, not least in the UK, where almost all of the Euro-stories in the Press are trivial or biased. And the political parties are also guilty, of course. It’s telling that the party that talks most about the EU in Britain is UKIP, which wants Britain to leave! 

There’s a double irony in Britain in relation to Eurobarometer’s findings. Because the elections are run under a form of proportional representation (albeit an imperfect one), everyone’s vote counts in the European elections, unlike in the UK’s first-past-the-post parliamentary elections. Moreover, individual MEPs in the European Parliament have far more power than their backbench counterparts in the House of Commons do. So it really does matter who one votes for.

There have been direct elections to the European Parliament for 30 years now, but I get the impression that knowledge in Britain about the institution and the significance of EU laws is now less than it was back in 1979. It’s depressing, but unavoidable, that Euro-candidates such as myself will have to spend a lot of the next seven weeks engaged in a kind of basic information campaign about the EU, rather than being able to examine specific issues in greater detail.


One Response to “Motivating People to Vote in the European Elections”

  1. Hywel said

    “and nearly two-thirds (62%) believe their vote won’t make a difference.”

    Whilst this is often said about elections with the European Parliament it is curiously accurate.

    The European Parliament has such limited powers, in substance little more than the “strongly worded letter” of Team America infamy.

    Who should I vote for to get the European Directive on Data Retention (which does fundamentally drive the recent law in that area) repealed? Whilst you could make speeches about it, even pass resolutions calling for it’s repeal you simply won’t have the power to do that.

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