EU essay: low engagement
For the last two elections, the low participation of people has been quite low when it comes to voting for the European Elections. Some think this could be solved through penalizing those who do not vote, but that might be equal to putting a casket on a broken leg after falling off a bike. The real problem is that you don't know how to ride the bike, meaning next time, chances of getting hurt are at high stake.
Participation in the EU elections has been constantly decreasing from 62% in 1979 to 43% in 2009 (Source CEPS). It seems as every year, election goes down 3%. It is important to notice though, that Europe it is not the only place with low rates of voting. The US has a hard time and countries all over LATAM have it as well (in Chile, abstention for 2013 presidential election was an all time high of 60%; source: U de Chile Radio).
This means that all over the world politicians are losing credibility. The huge problem for the EU though, is that the amount of people to govern is over half billion. So, how the Parliament -which seems to be doing better every year- could fix this?
- Be close and relevant on practical matters: The Parliament seems so far and bureaucratic for most people in EU. If its actions are seen as “outside of my comfort zone” there is no motivation to get involved.
- E-Voting: Estonia increased the participation of its people by an impressive 17%, from 26,83% to 43,9%. (Source: CEPS). This is not the only case in the world, but it has been chosen since it corresponded to the european landscape and it has been quite successful.
I believe compulsory vote will not fix the real problem, which is people that do not really understand the role of the parliament. And here there is a big paradox: The Parliament keeps on getting more power, however nobody seems to understand why or how. As I stated at the beginning, the problem behind the low turnout rate should be fixed on the medium-long term by making the EU Parliament more close to people and at the same time, easier to understand.
Too many choices, responsibilities and roles creates what is called by psychology “paralysis by analysis”. (Source: Reliable Planet).
Once the role is understood, the people should evaluate whether it is relevant for them or not to vote. Once they have made up their minds, several methods to simplify the voting process should be available to citizens. Current innovatives methods are applied in: Germany, voting by mail, by proxy (the Netherlands), by messenger (Sweden) or in advance (Sweden, Finland, Lithuania) (Source: CEPS).
Concluding, I believe that the trend reflects a serious disconnection between this organism of the EU and the people. Through education and then facilitation, vote patterns should change. If they don't, then it might be time to review the role of the Parliament. A organization for the people, that is useless for the people, makes no sense.
In this situation the “less is more” maxim should be applied fully. That should be mandatory.
- EU landscape: http://www.ceps.eu/files/book/1886.pdf
- Chile: http://radio.uchile.cl/2013/11/17/elecciones-2013-gano-la-abstencion
- Paralysis by analysis: http://www.reliableplant.com/Read/18128/analysis-paralysis