Tuesday, September 04, 2007

No S*** Sherlock

Ballot Box
Sending a message, at last?
The EU Observer highlights an interesting report by political scientists working at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.

Every time there is a vote in which opponents of the EU advance, and its supporters suffer the cry goes up that "people weren't voting on Europe, they were voting based on the popularity of their national government". Bad results in elections for the European Parliament and rejections of the proposed treaties in referenda and the same refrain is heard. The same argument is also commonly used to deny popular votes in the first place.

While the researchers concede that this may have been a significant factor in the past they point to trends since the mid-nineties that suggest that this may no longer be the case. They have identified a pattern that while member state's govenment have trended towards becoming more positive to the EU, the European Parliament is gradually trending towards a more Eurosceptic position.

The EU Observer notes that:
Interpreting these data, the researchers claim that voters are increasingly using European Parliament elections to express dissatisfaction with the EU and with the pro-European attitudes of their national governments.

"Voters have a diffuse feeling that Europe has gone too far and that their national governments have a tendency to accept too much of further European integration," [one of the researchers] Mr Manow told EUobserver.


"[The Dutch and French referenda] fully fit the picture of an increased but as of yet not politically represented EU-scepticism. It's only that referenda bring out the populist dissatisfaction with the EU much more purely than the European Parliament elections did so far."

Source: EU Observer

I'm sure that even the most blinkered of British Europhiles would accept that this has been the pattern in this country for some time. While we might use local elections to bash a party that is unpopular on the national stage, there seems to be little of this type of behaviour when it comes to European elections. What else would explain the last election to the European Parliament, where a Conservative party that was still deeply unpopular on the national stage, and the UKIP which still has only the most tenuous of presences at Westminster, respectively trounced NuLab at the peak of its powers and the relatively buoyant LibDems.

In one sense it's encouraging that this type of behaviour may be developing a pan-European perspective. The problem is that the extent to which the central forces of EU integration give a damn what the people actually want is, to say the least, limited. It's possible that the backlash against the gradual erosion of the meaningful democratic power of the people within the EU system was fully anticipated by the EU elites; after all, a parliament without the power to initiate legislation could only ever halt integration, not roll it back in any meaningful way, regardless of its composition.

The EU should take on board that many people will cast their vote in Europe related polls not only on what the EU should do, but also if the EU should do it at all. They should, but on past performance they will continue to raise a single finger to the people whenever their plans and schemes are challenged.


Anonymous said...

Whatever the explanation for other people's votes...

You can amaze them all by voting already now at www.FreeEurope.info.

Vote YES to Free Europe Constitution!

Dusanne said...

Been there, done that, and have a couple of appropriate t-shirts already!