June’s European elections are being billed by EU officials as a chance for the bloc’s citizens to make their choice. However, recent polls suggest up to two thirds of the electorate could choose to give it a miss.
Some blame an image problem, others believe the apathy is more deep-rooted. An EOS Gallup poll predicts 66 percent of eligible Europeans will not vote, by far the lowest turnout in the 30-year history of European elections. For many MEPs like Alain Lamassoure, voters are being misled about what exactly they’re being asked to vote for. “Political parties tend to hijack the European elections to push a national agenda and make up party lists according to domestic problems instead of understanding that in fact it’s about voters electing those people who will be representing them in the European parliament for the next five years,” he said. Yet for many political analysts, diminishing interest in Brussels-based politics is in direct contrast to the growing role of the EU. As Pascal Delwit puts it: “One paradox is that today we are are voting for representatives in an institution that is stronger than it was 30 years ago but at the same time citizens don’t perceive it like that and so don’t get fully involved.” The Gallup poll goes on to point out that the biggest issue for European voters is the economy; first unemployment then falling purchasing power. However, only a third of potential voters have heard anything about European efforts to tackle the financial crisis. National governments appear to be the ones taking either the credit or the blame.