This is Part 4 of an 8-part series of short articles by EWI's Head of Global Research, Murray Gunn. Murray is based in London, where he documents European hot-button issues in great detail. Murray also views the world and forms his conclusions from a social-mood perspective. It's an eye-witness series you don't want to miss.
by Murray Gunn
Updated: May 03, 2019
Historically, most Europeans haven't cared about the European Parliament elections. As Europe faces an existential moment, that might be changing.
The legendary, dry-witted Scottish comedian, Charles "Chic" Murray, had a famous line. A man sees another walking along with an 8-foot metal stick. "Are you a pole vaulter?" he asks. The other replies, "No, I'm a German. How did you know my name was Walter?" That quip came to mind when I was researching for this piece because I found out that, in the last European Parliament elections in 2014, only 23.83% of eligible voters in Poland cast their vote. (Fibonacci 23.6% anyone?) That's quite amazing considering that Polish citizens have been some of the most dynamic in seeking employment by taking advantage of the free movement of people amongst European Union (E.U.) member states.
Poland wasn't the lowest turnout though. Only 13% of Slovaks bothered to vote - barely 1 in 10 of eligible voters. On the other end of the scale, 90% of Belgians and 86% of Luxembourgers went to the ballot box. The average turnout across the European Union was 43.09%. Let's face it, in most countries, people are serious about their apathy.
But hold on, look at the chart below. It shows the average turnout for European Parliament elections since they started in 1979, according to statista.com. From 61.99% in 1979, turnout fell at each successive election, held every five years. However, in 2014, average turnout actually increased from 2009, all be it by a paltry 0.09%. Nevertheless, it was the first time ever that average turnout had increased. Is this a sign that apathy towards the European Union is turning to engagement? It may well be.
Of course, E.U. citizens perhaps turned out to vote in more numbers in 2014 because of the crisis that was engulfing the Eurozone at that time. Indeed, the Greek turnout increased from 53% in 2009 to 60% in 2014. As socionomics makes clear, anger provokes action. And that may be the case in 2019 as well. Turnout in the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland was 35.6% in 2014 but, given the furor over Brexit, it would not be a surprise to see that increase dramatically (I have my card, inset, and, as usual, will be humbled in exercising my hard-fought-for democratic right.) In fact, an increased turnout could be repeated across the continent as citizens are motivated to either support or oppose the nationalistic, populist wave surging from Belgrade to Britain.
If the European Union survives (and it is a very big if), historians may well look back at this period as being the time when EU citizens re-engaged with the democratic process.
Next week, we'll take a look at the different factions that make up the European Parliament.
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