Voter turnout has been dropping steadily in European Parliament elections since the first vote was held in 1979. Despite the European Parliament gaining in power and importance following each new treaty, at the last European elections in 2009 only 43% of people turned up to vote compared with a high of 61.99% in 1979. With the next election almost four months away in May 2014, will the trend continue?
Will YOU be voting? Remember, if you want to show public support for your party or group, you can vote for one of the political ideologies in our Debating Europe Vote 2014!
We’ve had several questions sent in on this topic. One of them came from a student from Romania asking simply: “How can we increase the number of voters in EU elections?”
Now, we often speak to people at the European level, so this time we decided to do things a little differently and get a reaction from a couple of national politicians instead. First, we spoke to Duarte Marques, a Portuguese MP whose party sits with the Centre-Right group in the European Parliament.
How can we get more people to vote? By showing that Europe is useful. By showing that all of us have the responsibility to vote in order to choose the representatives who will decide our future. If we want somebody to fight for us and our rights and future, we have to choose them. So, it’s simply a responsibility for everybody to vote. Otherwise, just sit on our couch watching TV and criticising others. You want to do something? You want to see something changing? Then go to vote! Otherwise others will choose for you.
But why should people bother to vote? Will European Parliament elections really have much of an impact?
Nowadays, most of the laws in our countries are decided in the European Commission or at the Council or at the European Parliament. So, people need to understand that these votes taking place in Brussels in this Parliament are changing our lives. And the impact is growing stronger as the power of the European Parliament steadily increases. So, we need to care about the MEPs we elect as they make a difference – sometimes more so than our local parliaments!
We also spoke to Deborah Schembri, an MP from Malta whose party sits with the Social Democrats group in the European Parliament. Malta actually has one of the highest voter turnout rates of any country in the EU, so what would she say?
You can create an interest in politics when you show people that what they are voting for will actually make a difference in their lives. And I think this realisation will push European voters to actually vote. In my country, we don’t have much of a problem with voters not voting because they feel that it will have an impact and help them out.
Which is a good point, but how do you show people their vote will make a difference? Do YOU plan to vote in the European Parliament elections in May 2014? Do you think your vote makes a difference? Is voting a duty that all citizens should undertake? Or does not voting also send a message? Do you want to start making your voice heard NOW? You can vote for one of the political ideologies in our Debating Europe Vote 2014!