Dimitris Rapidis

Following the methodology of opinion polls prepared and launched in national and European level, it comes to our great surprise that while the projection of seats and the relevant rates for the European parties resemble, there are no concrete statistics for the part of the electorate that has either decided -for the moment- to abstain in the forthcoming elections or has not decided yet what party to vote for. We are not in the position to clear out what is the intention behind this methodological gap, but it is certain that this discrepancy engenders a number of grounded concerns over the final outcome of the elections on May, and above all, over the final abstention rate, especially for the younger generation.

Not just another campaign

The 2014 European elections, especially after the implementation for the first time of the Lisbon Treaty prerogatives, have something unique. This is the first pan-European campaign that the candidate leaders for the European Commission have to undertake in order to engulf the concerns, fears, and hopes of the European electorate, not just of the national electorate. In other words, it is not simply about a distant campaign organized, scaled and launched in national level, or just in Brussels, but it is mainly the first campaign that touches upon the federal perspective of the European Union, and the prospects for the long-aspired Political Union of the European establishment.

In addition, empirical evidence so far has revealed that while the standardizing effect of the left-right dimension across Europe has led to congruence between the views of the European electorate and of their representatives in the European Parliament (EP), it has not achieved to address some key areas of political, economic, and social integration in the European Union. In other words, the major topics of the debate, such as euroscepticism, youth unemployment, social security, and growth, have not been widely and profoundly elaborated by the political parties in national level, and the European political groups in pan-European level. In this respect, pending topics of the electoral debate are not properly touched, leaving space for a great part of the European electorate without ideological and political shelter, and therefore without crystallized voting intentions and preferences.

On March 13, 2014 the EP along with TNS Opinion published the latest projections of seats in the Parliament. In this study, as in the previous ones accordingly, abstention rates were not counted nor incorporated in the overall percentage effect over the composition of the Parliament.

In similar respect, PollWatch, a platform that regularly provides projections on the outcome of 2014 EP elections does not incorporate abstention rates in the overall outcome. In national level, the image resembles a lot.

Both the EP and PollWatch2014 attain a big pool of resources and retain the privilege to engage thousands of European citizens that are following their updates and surveys. The landscape of opinion polls is designed in the above manner, taking as prerequisite that abstention rates will not define the perseverance of the EP for the period 2014-2019, as well the level of acceptance of the candidates for the European Commission and the policy-making for the next five years. Therefore, the final image left behind consists of irrelevant characteristics: from the one side, we have the electorate that is intended to vote, choosing throughout the current spectrum of political parties and groups, without any policy preference or in the absence of concrete policy-planning for a number a topics, and on the other hand there are parts of the European society that are being forced to “silence”, and cannot articulate their preferences or remain at the sidelines of the voting.

The unique Greek Case

Greece is expected to be a unique case towards 2014 EP Elections for one simple reason: in the most crisis-devastated member-state of the European Union, voting projections give clear advantage to both radical left and extreme right, a fact that appears nowhere else in the Union.

More precisely, the party of SYRIZA is leading the polls with his leader, Mr. Alexis Tsipras, being candidate for the Presidency of the European Commission. On the other hand, the party of Golden Dawn, with its MEP being persecuted for criminal acts by the Greek justice, is considered to be the most powerful political force of extreme right, along with Front National in France, both in national and European level. Therefore, Greece is expected to send in Strasbourg MEPs from the most powerful party of the radical left in Europe, as well MEPs from the most powerful party of extreme right in Europe.

From this perspective, Greece can be considered as the scene of political anomaly in the European Union, with wider dimensions both for the present and the future of policy-making in the EP and in Europe overall. In addition to that, the political conditions and voting preferences in Greece, if being examined per se, unveil the entire structure of the European establishment nowadays: hopes sheltered under the umbrella of radical left; anger sheltered under the umbrella of extreme right; abstention grown in the circles of youth and the “silent” parts of the society that cannot decide amongst the current political choices.

Policy Recommendations

  • Preparation of debates between the candidates for the Presidency of the European Commission, held in Brussels, and broadcasted at the same time in every member-state
  • Incorporation of abstention rates in the forthcoming opinion polls and snapshots + more focus on abstention polls and provision of justifications – public engagement
  • Inclusion of propositions and policy recommendations from youth forums and fresh think-tanks for the entire spectrum of policy-making in the European Unio

 

Note: This policy brief was first published @BridgingEurope, under the Project EU Elections 2014

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