The political mainstream in Europe is fragmenting. Recent elections – from Spain and Slovakia to Portugal and Ireland – have produced stalemates, volatile coalitions, and weak governments. Anti-austerity, anti-EU, and anti-immigration parties are growing, reducing the share of the vote for mainstream parties on both the centre-left and the centre-right. Politics is growing more volatile, and the rhetoric becoming ever shriller.
60% of Europeans polled say they don’t trust their national government or parliament. Can democracy function correctly with high levels of mistrust in political institutions? Or is it normal (and maybe even healthy) for voters to hold a certain amount of scepticism of political elites?
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Alex, arguing that citizens are losing trust because politicians don’t take decisions in their interests: “We are losing trust because you end up making political decisions over decisions in favour of citizens.”
How would YOU restore public trust in politics? We asked Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from all sides of the political spectrum to stake out their positions on this question, and it’s up to YOU to vote for the policies you favour. See what the different MEPs have to say, then vote at the bottom of this debate for the one you most agree with! Take part in the vote below and tell us who you support in the European Parliament!
The EU destroys the trust of its citizens by ignoring their concerns and expectations and representing mainly the interests of banks and corporations. Only a democratic EU dedicated to growth, employment and fair living standards can counter the appeal of these racist parties masquerading as defenders of the rights of ordinary citizens…
If I knew how to restore public trust in politics, I would definitely immediately use that recipe. I think the only thing I can do is do my job as well as I can, be transparent in what I do, and show citizens that it’s a difficult decision-making proces.
It’s not “black and white”, it’s not “right or wrong”, there is a lot of grey, and there are a lot of ethical decisions you have to think through and then try to make the right decision. And I think it’s important for us to show how decisions are made, and show were we’ve been struggling.
We see – at national level – an increasing number of governments that are unable to think in a pro-European way or act in a pro-European way… Even some mainstream parties have elements of populism and some relation to extremists parties. [Political radicalisation] is generating fear and people feel threatened. And lack of trust in leaders is fueled by radicalisation. This is a big threat to European liberal democracy…
Nigel Farage (EFDD), Member of the European Parliament (NOTE: We contacted EFDD MEPs for comment but they did not reply in time for publication. The below is from a speech made by Nigel Farage MEP)::
This EU faces an existential crisis, indeed there is an outbreak of a contagious disease. It is not a new one. The Greeks first came across it a couple of thousand years ago, the virus in its new form began in Denmark in the early 90’s but was put down with a heavy German hand. There have been a couple of outbreaks in Ireland but substantial European money again cured the outbreak. But the red alert in 2005 when the contagion swept the Netherlands and France frankly has never gone away and I think now we have simultaneous outbreaks of the disease and in Denmark it now looks to be wholly irreversible. In my own country, despite decades of our political establishment denying its existence, a recent opinion poll showed that sufferers may now be actually in a majority… [T]he disease is called democracy and people want to have a say on their future.
IMAGE CREDIT: CC / Flickr – Manuel Gordiani
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