Ever since 1979 the turnout in the European elections has been lower than five years before. In 2014 the first indications suggested the trend might have been stopped. Unfortunately when the final data came through, it turned out that the turnout was the lowest in history, once again. In 2014 only 42,54% of Europeans voted. And only 23,83% took part in Poland.
In the past the European elections were not the highest priority. Also the actors did not pay as much attention – their focus was elsewhere, on national or the local vote. In 2019 there are many reasons to vote, including the rule of law, the multi-annual perspective, the digital age rules, etc. But will the people actually go to the polls? Will the apathy win once again? Can the trend of a falling turnout be reversed?
For now there are no answers. It seems that in many countries, Poland included, the political temperature has reached new levels of polarisation. However bad it may be, high divisions are usually good for the turnout – and the legitimacy of the process the public participates in. Remember the 2016 Brexit referendum? What makes it so relevant is the fact that 72% of the public turned out to vote.
Will it be different in 2019? The European Parliament launched a new information campaign, “This Time I’m Voting” hoping it will make a difference.
The turnout data
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Will it be different this time? As the author of this blog I can only hope so, as I am craving for the increased legitimacy of the European project. This time I am not alone. The political climate is favourable for the increased turnout in Poland. The political actors are unwilling to compromise on their May 2019 performance – it may reverse the trend of winning elections by the Law and Justice… or continue the trend.
This time it’s different. This time I’m voting? Will it translate into a higher turnout? To talk about the challenge the turnout to the European election is I turned to Jacek Safuta, head of the European Parliament office in Warsaw.
Q: Mr. Safuta, come 26 May, what do you see as the biggest challenge?
Jacek Safuta: From my point of view, the biggest challenge is to persuade as many citizens as possible to vote in full awareness of the key role of the European Parliament in the EU and the impact its decisions have on everyday life of citizens. And vice-versa: we are drawing the attention of citizens to the fact that they can influence EU decisions – not only by casting their vote, but also by communicating with their MEPs between elections. We would like to question the main reason why Poles, exactly like citizens of other Member States, don’t participate in the European elections: most of them used to believe their vote would not change anything.
…and this time I am voting. Why? What changed?
The political and economic environment around Europe is becoming less friendly to say the least. Due to quick progress of technology, fierce economic competition and other global challenges, we need to cooperate closely to preserve our common values, such as solidarity, our rights and way of living. For this, we need more than ever citizens’ engagement in shaping common democratic, effective institutions and rules.