Most of the Europeans would be surprised to know that more than one year before the European Parliament (EP) elections in spring 2014, there has been an effective voting for electing MEPs.
Yes, it did happen, and the reason is simple: with the accession of Croatia as a Member State the 1st of July of 2013, the election of 12 ew MEP was needed, in order to represent the country in the EU democratic institution. So far Croatia was only present in the EP as non-voting observers. For the first time in history, Croatians have been called to cast their vote and elect their representatives to the EU. However, the poor score of the elections in terms of participation (20.74% of voters, almost breaching the former 19.63% record of Slovakia in 2009) brings again to the scenario the worrying trend that the EP elections are following from the celebration of the first of them in 1979: a progressive loose of the percentage of people voting, which reached the bottom with only 43.24% of all voters practicing their right in 2009.
The consideration of the EP elections as “second order” elections is not new; it is highly noticeable that the national and regional elections normally have a bigger turnout than European ones. In this case there is another factor that adds to this consideration: the candidates now elected will stay in their seats for less than one year, until the 2014 EP elections. The problems in Slovenia, and specially the perception that belonging to EU has not kept their neighbors free of the financial crisis, can also be behind the poor percentage.
The low participation is worrying in terms of the lack of involvement and interest of the EU citizens on the European issues. In spite of the communication efforts of the European Union, that in 2009 launched the biggest campaign ever seen for EP elections, the results were lower than ever. There is also the question of to what extent the members elected are legitimated to represent their country since, in the case of Croatia, only one out of each five electors have voted.
In AEGEE we are aware of this situation, and take what happened now in the newest EU member as a potential anticipation of what may happen in one year from now. The institutions at every level should also take note and put the appropriate efforts to revert the trend. We in AEGEE have done our homework and, through the recently approved project Y Vote 2014, we will foster participation of young voters through different activities, remarking the importance of voting in the elections not only as a duty but as a right. Our intention is to make voting in EP elections the first step what will give the society a bigger involvement in the decision making process.
The case of this elections in Croatia can be an isolated one, or on the contrary it can be the pattern that will define the results on the coming elections. Taking the motto of our project, It is up to You(th) to have a more active participation that will contribute to change this trend.
Written by Javier Mendoza Jiménez ( AEGEE-Tenerife and Yvote 2014)