i-votedThe British comedian, Russel Brand, recently called on his fans to stop voting in order to “starve [politicians] of consent”. Brand believes there is no point in voting for any politician, as they all ultimately behave the same way once they’re in office.

Elsewhere in Europe, another funnyman turned man of the people – Italy’s Beppe Grillo – also argues that politicians are all corrupt and useless. Grillo’s proposed solution, though, is not to ignore elections but rather to vote more ‘non-politicians’ into office. Either way, it’s another rejection of ‘mainstream’ politics.

This feeling of frustration with the current political system is something shared by many of our readers here on Debating Europe. Gratian from Italy, for example, recently sent us in a comment complaining that: “When all parties turn out to be the same once in power, people lose faith in all parties, and ultimately in democracy.”

When we spoke to Uffe Elbaek, a member of the Danish national parliament and former Culture Minister of Denmark, he argued that important issues should not just be reduced to party politics. Rather, he thought they should involve citizens’ movements working alongside the traditional political system to a much greater extent:

Uffe-ElbaekThere are questions even more important than which party you vote for. If you look beyond party politics […] the bigger picture is the way we think about growth, the way we produce, the way we think about environmental issues… So, get out there, vote for the right people, but do more than just voting. Organise yourself around important questions and create your own platform.

Which is all very nice. But what should these “citizens’ platforms” actually look like? To get a better idea, we spoke to Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, a German MEP and part of the Freie Demokratische Partei, a   Liberal Democratic party in the European Parliament. Chatzimarkakis announced in April that he would be quitting German politics at the end of the European Parliament’s current term because of the way Cyprus was treated during its bail-out negotiations. Instead, he has announced his intentions to form a “citizens’ platform” in Greece with the aim of taking part in the European elections in May 2014.

First of all, we asked him how he would respond to Gratian’s comment about the feeling of disillusion with politics:

Jorgo-ChatzimarkakisI totally agree with Gratian. That is why I advocate more referenda and more direct democracy in Europe. In the case of the financial crisis, the crisis of democracy was even worse than normal because there was no influence or control on the European level from the only Europe-wide elected body – the European Parliament. There was some influence from national governments and parliaments, but to be clear: they were often blackmailed, like Greece and Portugal, to do what they were told. So, what we need now is a big step into a more supranational, or rather federal, fiscal union as a first step towards a United States of Europe.

But is a stronger European Parliament really the solution? We also had a comment sent in from Mike, who argued: “The problem with the EU is that it assumes that it is representing Europe. It is not. Many many don’t even know who their MEP is. So why are they going to vote for someone they don’t even know?

Jorgo-ChatzimarkakisWhat we haven’t had until now is a public debate in Europe. A public debate is starting to emerge now, but we certainly didn’t have it until the financial crisis broke out. The crisis was the first real transnational and pan-European phenomenon that led to the participation of the entire European demos, and you could see because in a lot of letters to newspaper editors, participation in TV shows by citizens, discussion on social media, etc. Suddenly, there were comments to a much larger extent on European affairs. For example, German pensioners started talking about the pension system in Greece.

So, I think a big step has been made, but we haven’t managed as a European Parliament to cope well with this new situation, to pick up the debate and to demonstrate our own role. And, to be honest, I am not surprised because I am disappointed by our own role: the European Parliament has not had any real means of control and oversight during the crisis. There was only one hearing in the European Parliament – just one! – on the policy of the Troika. This was not enough, and it has to change.

Finally, is “anti-politics” just a lazy excuse not to engage with the political process and ignore tough compromises? We asked Chatzimarkakis why he was forming a citizens’ platform. Why not just engage with existing political parties?

Jorgo-ChatzimarkakisFirst of all, it’s an attempt to respond to some of the discontent I have heard from citizens, including your readers just now. All the questions I have just answered have had to do with the unsatisfied feeling that many people in Europe today possess; the belief that ‘my voice is not being heard’ by governments and politicians. That’s why we have created a platform for citizens in Greece. It will be a list of people that want a stronger and even more integrated Europe. This is our answer to the Euro-crisis and to the public sense of apathy. We want to make clear that it would be a major mistake to stop European integration, and that a push forward should be made.

Citizens from all parts of society are invited to take part in this new movement. And it means that ideologies are not our focus. Our focus is realism, and not ideology. This might sound new, but in fact people are fed up with parties or ideologies. They don’t want to choose A, B or C if the outcome is always the same. Some of your questions reflect this idea. I believe that such citizens movement are the way forward.

Vote 2014

Voting is closed in our Debating Europe Vote 2014! The results are now in, so come and see what our readers thought!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Bill Roehl

44 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think? Are citizens fed up with political parties and ideologies? Or is "anti-politics" just a lazy excuse not to engage with issues? If you refuse to vote, are you taking for granted a right which people fought and died for? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we'll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

  1. avatar
    Darren Grasso

    im fed up with politicans ignoring the views of the majority of the ppl, such as the issue of migration.

  2. avatar
    Con Rad

    I’m fed up with rightwingers moaning about migration but not seing their own countrymen migraring to different parts of Europe. Hipocracy has no limits.

  3. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    With politics no, never… With ideologies bien sure!! We need politicians with new ideas and the guts to see them through.. Not bore us with Left/Right rhetoric….

  4. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar


    The voting power of a Luxembourgeoise MEP is TWICE that of a German MEP or a UK MEP.

    The EU has tried to give the little countries a greater voice at the expense of democracy – a noble sentiment but an unfair implementation.

    • avatar

      Should Scotland secede from the UK the British Islands as a whole will have more voting weights in EU institutions.

      If Yugoslavia would have joined the EU as a state it would have the weight of neighbouring Romania. Now, when all successor states will have joined the EU, the people of former Yugoslavia will have an EU voting power compareable with that of the much bigger Italy, if the new states coordinate their votes.
      The present EU is a programme for minorities on all levels of life.

    • avatar
      Wouter Wolfs

      But democracy should be more than just simple majority-voting. It is important that minorities are protected, also institutionally.
      The distribution of seats in the EP is also only one side of the story. It is part of an institutional balance with the Council of Ministers, in which the large countries also have more votes. A more proportional distribution of seats in the EP would also imply the same number of votes for all member states in the Council, as is also the case in the US Congress.

  5. avatar
    Karl Anthony Borg

    I think the rise of the populist parties both on the left and on the right in Europe, is due to an “anti-mainstream politics” idea rather than because they do not care about politics. Citizens are turning to radical parties, hoping that these actually have an answer to the problems that Europe is going through.

  6. avatar
    James Stevens

    Fed up with political parties, the lies, the corruption, right vs left and most of all the EUSSR.

  7. avatar
    Con Rad

    James is an expert on USSR it’s structures, lived under soviet boot. Oh dear – how not to like ukip amatheurs.

  8. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    Eu creio que os politicos ainda andam contaminados com o passado será que eles ainda não preceberam que a sociedade Europeia está cada vez mais desenvolvida eu muitas das vezes critica com os politicos porque aprecebem-se das estruturas de politicas onde estão aparecer novos milionarios politicos sindicalistas empresários que para eles são os inocentes e a justiça muitas das veses assobia ao lado A Europa do futuro terá que criar uma arquitetura de politicas modernas dentro dos estados da união europeia e só assim se pode ultrapassar os obstáculos e enfrentar o futuro mais otimista

  9. avatar
    catherine benning

    Politicians, for some extraordinary reason, fear the truth in their vision for our collective future will make them unelectable. So, they present a platform for the electorate which will deviate from the genuine agenda they wish to pursue.

    Here is an example of a lying politician. And if he would dare to mouth this in Parliament, where you are expected above all things to be truthful, what will he tell you on the hustings?


    And his real motive for this was money.

    Here is another liar on the talk shows and hustings. What this man pretends is, he is the average Joe, oout to save the British people from the horror of the parties we already have. What he doesn’t tell them is, his backers are billionaires and they have three Peers in our present House of Lords, an unelected, appointed or hereditary chamber, who get their position by who they know and by how much they donated to those who appointed them. Yet his claim is, he is going to change UK politics.


    What he isn’t telling the public in his little speeches are, the aim of his backers is to remove the British people from the rights they have in Europe under the social chapter and the Human Rights Act. And, what that will mean to them in their daily lives. As well as immigration won’t change one iota by removal of Britain from the EU as it cannot do so. Listen closely to what he is saying. Our ties are with the Commonwealth.


    He is very connected to the US. Just as Blair was and is.

    So, yes, politicians are duplicitous because their main aim is self promotion and advancement, not the interests of the electorate and what is in the best interests of the people as a whole

    • avatar

      Catherine, I believe you are right about Farage, but maybe the resultant of his activities might still be positive for Europe, because he puts his fingers on sore spots in the EU system.

    • avatar
      catherine benning


      Farage may well touch on points that need addressing in respect of EU policies. There are many which must be taken up and confronted by European citizens. The audit problems for one and the fact that many of the representatives within it are unelected. Such as Baroness Ashton for a start. How can she hold an office when she has never faced a British election in her entire life. She was simply appointed to the House of Lords on a ‘politically correct’ shove in. And ends up speaking for the UK in Europe without ever having the consent of the people to do so. Europe should not permit such appointees to be part of its process. Not if it’s claiming to be democratic. At least Farage was voted in as MEP.

      However, he makes no suggestions regarding his subsequent policies in respect of the European debate. He only advises that should UK citizens vote for his vague policies at our next general election, and, should he be elected as head of his party for government, he will take us out of Europe. He does not elaborate on how or what his motives and solutions around that policy will be, or indeed, why he will make such a dramatic move when he knows full well immigration will not be affected in the UK as a result of leaving the EU. Except to pretend immigration will will end at that point. He does not tell UK citizens in his speeches that we are not signed up to the Schengen agreement regarding the free movement of people in the true sense of it.


      And other than his assurance that by voting for him and his party, we will be relieved of European immigration into the UK, which he doesn’t openly confront as being only 20% of UK immigration, he refuses to cover other issues at all. Which is following the election scam we suffered under Blair, who likewise, omitted his plan was to fill the UK with immigrants whether they liked it or not. He having a vision of multiculturalism, which regardless of consent by voters, would be carried out relentlessly in order to rub the rights noses in it.

      We don’t need another dark horse in our Parliament. Keeping his true objectives up his sleeve until it is too late.

      Therefore, what you need is a German equivalent of Farage working on behalf of your people, to reveal the discontent within and to fight against those policies not wanted.

  10. avatar
    Cristian Dinescu

    Democracy critically depends on EACH & EVERYONE of us, but this lazy children are not citizens, just Twitter/Facebook users.

  11. avatar
    Jaime Martins

    Citizens are FED UP of corruption and losing everything they have for half a dozen rich and politics.

  12. avatar
    Jovan Ivosevic

    So long as turnout for European elections remains low, the European parliament will be the best platform for extremists to get their message across.

  13. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    don’t be fooled by what Russel Brand is saying.. Read this:

    “What I find intriguing is that many people fell for the message that not Mr. Brand himself, but the BBC wants to promote among young people who probably are followers or admirers of Mr. Brand. “Do not vote” because it is revolutionary, voting is pointless and we need a revolution. And because “Rock and Roll” celebrities are advocating that they do not see the point!

    I do not trust someone who has benefited from the Hollywood stardom and media machine. What he says is absolutely true and inspiring, but he is not the first to express these views. To encourage people NOT to vote is nonsensical. People must continue to vote, though do so for different parties that do not represent the establishment. Socialist, liberal, progressive or green parties.

    What we suffer from is the two party system and a political establishment that guess what? It exists in all countries. That is the model we should all strive to break away from. But we must continue to vote, this time with a cause, conscience and wisely.

    For someone to pretend that speaks for the people, but encourages political idleness and apathy, it seems that he supports the establishment that wants people to become idle to democracy and indifferent to their country’s political reality. In other words Mr. Brand perhaps unwillingly, acts as a wolf in a sheep’s skin.

    People be ware! The establishment wants to just ridicule any potential revolution by making a persona like Brand the face of it. The key to any reforms or revolution is to continue to vote and participate in your country’s politics, but this time start doing so with an educated opinion.

    Something that the established media and governments do not want you to do. If only anyone who advocated for a “revolution” fell under the image of Mr. Brand and be associated with him. A real revolution can start from a farmer, a teacher, student, a housewife and not a “cool,” drug using and famous celebrity with distorted views on politics.”

    You may want to read the whole article here:

  14. avatar
    Vicente Silva Tavares

    That is a silly proposal! The right one should be to invade the parties in such a way they could be more transparents and democratics.

  15. avatar

    Jorgo Chatzimarkakis is certainly one of those who is the ‘same as most of the others’. First of all he seems to think the European Parliament is democratic(ally elected). The reality is, it is nothing of the kind. There is no European demos so the European Parliament not only is not democratic, but actually cannot be democratic. And we’re leaving out its base concept of disproportional over- and underrepresentation.

    And second, he too ignores ordinary people and wants to push fiscal union which in the long term would cost Germany at least 20% wealth. After all, fiscal union means fiscal transfers, and they will need to be bigger than in the USA (where they are 8-12%) because the differences is bigger. Where does Jorgo Chatzimarkakis propose the German government cut 20% of its spending so Brussels can redistribute it to Italy and Greece? Precisely, Jorgo Chatzimarkakis is ignoring this little tidbit, presumably because it is somewhat inconvenient for him, and he prefers to live in the Brussels’ land of make believe.

    And then there is this Effe Ulbaek harping on about ‘growth’, he is one of many politicians who ignores the reality that economies cannot grow forever. Perpetual growth was never possible.

    These neo-Soviet drones are indeed all the same, to them any problem can be solved with ‘more Eurosoviet’. They are like the 1980s apparatchiks who simply would not admit the (Soviet) Union itself was the problem. Fortunately, they like their predecessors also seem to assume that the (Eurosoviet) Union is perpetual and can never disappear… history shall prove them wrong again.

    Viva la resistance!

  16. avatar

    Of course, my main question to Jorgo would be how much income tax (both in % and in real terms) does he pay and how does he justify paying less?

  17. avatar
    Andrea Tuswald

    not to vote will not change anything. it is important that the euro-critical parties (namely the right ones) get a strong position, so that it will get more difficult for the main ones to get their goals through.

  18. avatar
    Andrea Tuswald

    not to vote will not change anything. it is important that the euro-critical parties (namely the right ones) get a strong position, so that it will get more difficult for the main ones to get their goals through.

  19. avatar

    Power to the people, not power to some 1% people that doesn’t defend or care about the interests and rights of the 99% population.
    Vote is not a weapon anymore BECAUSE the parties put out the puppets for us to vote in.
    The people should put out locally voted citizens to represent them at the national house of representants not the parties which are sponsored by private companies with private interests.
    How can any private sponsored partie can protect the public interests and rights, such as justice, equality, humanity, liberty if they have conflict of interests?
    Imagine that in a Global Scale such as the EU, USA, etc…
    They just can’t !
    People just want a simple thing: DEMOCRACY (this implies less politianss and more citizenship, otherwise, anything other than this is pure disguised DICTATORSHIP).

  20. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    O cidadão europeu civilizado sabe o que quer por isso creio que ele esta preparado para enfrentar as urnas no dia das eleições europeias e deixar para trás das costas os movimentos anti-sociais

  21. avatar
    Nicole A.

    Voting is agreeing with the system . The idea of a platform for citizens is great though. .

    • avatar
      Nicole A.

      Because the platform could be strong lobby .

  22. avatar
    catherine benning

    Here is another example of political obfuscation. It is our present PM at yesterdays Question time in the House of Commons.


    He is telling the people of our country that we have an upturn in the economy. LOL.

    Numbers are such a very flexible commodity they can be made to do anything you want them to.

    A sound economy has to be based on production of goods not consumption of credit. Which this so called ‘upturn’ is based on.

    We, in the UK, are going through another unsustainable housing bubble, fueled by Osborn’s policy of easy credit and fraudulent low interest rates. It has to create another horrendous bubble that will burst right after the next election, then we will see real despair. He is feeding hope where none exists under this governments policy’s.

    Only when we, the population, have money in our pockets to spend will there be anything like a recovery. Yet, will this man face personal accountability for his so sinister duplicity in this matter. Not if the likes of Blair is anything to go by.

    Time for a change in the laws on political chicanery and pointedly toward those who dare to do this. A price has to be paid for misleading an mis-selling to the electorate in this deliberate and underhand way

  23. avatar
    Cristina Steliana Mihailovici

    “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”
    Franklin D. Roosevelt

  24. avatar

    And yet the Democracy is a tool, and as a such it could be used to do good or bad. It all depends on who uses this tool! It doesn’t matter how well educated are you if all the options for you are much or less the same…

  25. avatar

    Yup, in the netherlands we have the rutte/pechtold show. Both have thier interests in brussels and not in the netherlands. Holland is a financial stepping stone for these guys and what happens here is of no concern as long as the finances go to brussels. Pechtold is an extreem eurofile and will do what it takes to hand holland over to brussels, Rutte is full of crap and scared of his boss good ole nellie, and the dutch know this. And last but not least we have samson, hes quite for the moment but hes waiting for the opportune moment to come back in the limelight.
    All 3 are not representing holland, they have huge interests in brussels to the point of being extreem, holland is being ruined by these euroidiots.
    We need democracy not lunacy!!!
    Yes they are all the same, same club, same chatter, same bs . And yes undemocratic eurofiles.

  26. avatar

    Today on tv a minister said: “The people voted for this, well the parlement did.”
    While yes we voted for those people in the goverment. As we have to vote. But what they agree on is far from what we want. We the people should get a say in all this. All we get is to pay more and more.

  27. avatar

    there is a big difference between russel brand and any politician …. Russell Brand can pack the house and people will pay to listen to him. unlike a politician who plays to an empty house and nobody will pay to listen to them. I would however vote for Russell Brand to be the next PM of the UK.

  28. avatar

    Politicians will find ways to negotiate the reason why they don’t keep their promises.

  29. avatar
    Robert Howes

    We need EPR (Extended Proportional Representation). This is true proportional representation. No political parties. Only citizen representatives who are paid in proportion to the votes cast for them. No winners and losers. All candidates are elected but not equally. Their voting power is that of delegates, that is to say in proportion to the votes cast for them. A number of candidates stand in each constituency on a wide range of issues from far right to far left and in between. Assuming there are ten candidates (but it could be a different number), the voters will have ten votes to cast (and will be paid ten euros for doing so). They can give all ten votes to one candidate or share them any way they like. In this way, every candidate gets elected. Some with a lot of votes, others with very few.
    I am guessing the centre candidates will get more votes than the extremists. Each group of candidates will get to share a surgery with as many desks as needed so that the constituents can see them anytime. The representatives will also do their parliamentary business from there at certain times of day, voting electronically on all the issues before them. The reps will not be paid a great deal as they will have time to hold down a job or run a business since the constituency work will not be a full-time job.
    There are a number of advantage to EPR. Big advantages. Anyone can easily get into politics. No need to join a party and get stuck with a party line. You would be your own man or woman. An extremist getting elected would likely have to become less extreme in order to increase his or her share of the vote, thus the money and the power. Yet you could get some power and influence as a radical.

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