Wednesday

29th Jun 2022

EU election turnout at record low after all

  • "This time is different" - the EP's slogan ahead of the EU vote (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The turnout for the European election in May fell to a record low, dealing a blow to claims by politicians - based on initial results - that a three-decade downward trend in voter participation had finally been halted.

The definitive turnout for the elections is 42.5 percent, down from 43 percent at the 2009 EU elections and down from the estimated 43.09 percent announced on 25 May, shortly after polls closed.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The supposed upward spike, although small, was seized upon by several politicians as a highly symbolic break with the past where the percentage of those going to the polls continued to decrease as the parliament's legislative powers increased.

“The first good news of the night is that we have finally broken the downward trend of falling participation in European elections,” liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt said on 25 May in Brussels.

“The European Parliament will be more representative than the previous one as average turnout across Europe is an improvement on 2009.”

Parliament spokesperson Jaume Duch at the time said the result, in view of the trend, was "historic".

The parliament quietly put the revised statistic on the EP website on 25 July, two months after the elections.

A spokesperson said the change was due to differences in estimated and final results in Spain and Italy. It took so long to get the final figure as counting methodology for invalid and blank votes had to be verified across all member states.

However, the parliament remained upbeat despite the revision.

"When you look at the final result and the figure that was estimated at the end of May - those two figures are very close. The final figure, which is a little bit lower than in 2009, confirms that the big descending tendency of previous years has been stopped," the spokesperson told this website.

Turnout has always been a sensitive issue for the assembly as it regularly positions itself as the most democratic of the EU institutions.

The election to the 751-seat parliament is seen as suffering from 'second order' syndrome where voters perceive the outcome as having little direct impact on their lives.

This has become an increasing embarrassment for the parliament which helps determine the shape of laws that affect almost every facet of citizens' lives from economic scrutiny of national budgets, to anti-pollution rules and consumer safety laws.

Additionally some had hoped that having EU commission-president candidates engage in TV debates and touring member states - a novelty for this year's vote - would help increase the numbers of those going to the polls.

While voter turnout did rise in some key countries - Germany (48.1%, up from 43.27% in 2009) and France (42.43%, up from 40.63% in 2009) - it fell in the majority, with Slovakia tailing at 13.05 percent.

Opinion

Voter turnout will decide Europe's fate

European voter turnout is in deep crisis. Since the early 2000s, the share of voters in national elections has fallen to 66 percent on average, which means that the birthplace of democracy now ranks below average globally.

EU opens door to Ukraine in 'geopolitical' summit

EU leaders will also discuss eurozone issues with European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde, as more and more leaders are worried about voters' distress at soaring inflation.

Opinion

The euro — who's next?

Bulgaria's target date for joining the eurozone, 1 January 2024, seems elusive. The collapse of Kiril Petkov's government, likely fresh elections, with populists trying to score cheap points against the 'diktat of the eurocrats', might well delay accession.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary permits emergency supervision of energy firms
  2. Bulgaria expels 70 alleged Russian spies
  3. EU Commission told to improve CAP data analytics
  4. Scotland pushes for second independence vote in 2023
  5. Climate groups: G7 leaders 'backsliding' on climate
  6. Ukraine diplomat urges German MEPs to reject EU taxonomy
  7. EU asylum requests were climbing before Ukraine war
  8. Public sector journalists protest Macron tax plan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  2. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  4. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBHow price increases affect construction workers
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic think tank examines influence of tech giants

Latest News

  1. EU Commission says it cannot find messages with Pfizer CEO
  2. EU ministers sign off on climate laws amid German infighting
  3. EU presidency still looking for asylum relocation pledges
  4. Finland and Sweden to join Nato, as Erdoğan drops veto
  5. The euro — who's next?
  6. One rubicon after another
  7. Green crime-fighting boss urgently required, key MEP says
  8. G7 leaders want price cap on Russian oil

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us