European elections: voting matters!

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© European Union 2024 - Source : EP European elections: voting matters!

© European Union 2024 – Source : EP

Every Monday, a member of the international academic association ‘UACES’ will address a current topic linked to their research on euradio.

 

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Simon Usherwood! I’m very pleased to welcome you back on Euradio. Your are professor at the Open University in Britain, and Chair of our partners UACES.

Less than three months left until the elections to the European Parliament. What are your expectations? And: do you think these elections actually matter?

Whether these elections matter is a great question and one that often gets asked.

45 years after the first direct elections, it is still a key problem for the European Parliament that most people don’t know much about what it actually does. Instead, their main reference point is national politics.

As a result, many people vote to express their views about their national government’s performance, or to express their more instinctive political views. And many think there’s no real consequence: if you consider the European Parliament doesn’t do anything important, it’s your chance to get your general view, or simply your discontent out there.

Of course, you and I, Laurence, aren’t going to make the same mistake, because we both know that these elections do have consequences.

 

You are right: at EU!radio, we are well aware of the important role played by the 750 MEPs that will be elected in June.

To start with, it’s up to them to approve the formation of the new European Commission. Even if everyone expects right now that Ursula Von Der Leyen will most likely continue for another 5 years, she still has to get the votes of a majority of those MEPs, as will all of the other 26 Commissioners of her team. Given that she has raised various question marks over the past five years, this might not be as simple as it appears.

Secondly, the fields in which MEPs get to co-legislate cover a very wide range nowadays, from regional development to agricultural spending, from environmental protection to international development, so your choice at the ballot box really counts.

And finally, MEPs help to hold the rest of the Union to account. The Parliament’s committees can scrutinise the work of other institutions and invite individuals to give evidence. By holding up a mirror to the EU’s work, they can improve the quality and legitimacy of what it does.

 

Which is certainly not unnecessary. What do you expect for the election campaign?

The centre-right EPP group, with lead candidate Von der Leyen, is set to retain its position as the largest in the new Parliament, bolstered by substantial representation in every member state. On the centre-left, the S&D group will most likely be the second-largest group, making the current ‘grand coalition’ with the EPP and the liberal Renew group quite probable.

However, polls suggest that we are likely to see more critical voices in the Parliament than before. Mostly this comes from the nationalist and eurosceptic right, but also in part from the far left. Remember how I said voters often chose parties as a function of how they see their national government? Well, one consequence of that is that populist rhetoric about how ‘politics is failing’ or ‘all politicians are the same’ gets an outlet here. We see similar kinds of arguments in pretty much every member state.

 

Many of them sound like the UKIP’s pitch before the Brexit referendum eight years ago!

That’s right. At the same time, perhaps because Brexit was very messy, you hear fewer voices saying that leaving the Union is a good idea, but this doesn’t stop them criticising what the EU does and how it does it. Not without a certain inconsistency: the loudest critics are often the ones whose MEPs are the least present in the daily life of the Parliament.

The problem faced by the European Parliament are very similar to the problems in all democracies. Democracy lives through participation and engagement of citizens with those who make decisions on their behalf. And the first way to engage is to vote.

So the answer to the question whether European elections matter is: voting matters!

My message to the listeners: over the next three months, take a bit of your time to find out more about what parties say they will do for you and remember that your vote will have consequences.

 

Many thanks, Simon Usherwood, for sharing your thoughts on the forthcoming elections. I recall you are professor at the Open University, and Chair of our partners UACES.

Entretien réalisé par Laurence Aubron.