8th Dec 2021

Most people unaware of upcoming EU elections

  • The European Parliament is expanding its legislative role, but voters remain unaware (Photo: Wikipedia)

The vast majority of EU citizens remain unaware that European elections will take place later this year despite a concerted effort by politicians in Brussels to raise the profile of the European Parliament, a newly-published poll has shown.

A survey from autumn last year of some 27,000 people across the bloc's 27 member states found that 67 percent did not know when the next European poll would be held and 54 percent said they would not be interested in the election, due to take place in June.

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There were strong variations in knowledge across the bloc, with Luxembourgers clocking in as the most well-informed (36% gave the correct year and date) while just two percent of Finnish people knew they could be making a trip to the urns this summer.

The by-now-traditional low average turnout for the European election looks set to be repeated this year, with just 28 percent of those asked saying they would definitely vote. Some 15 percent said they would definitely not vote.

The Portuguese (76% are not likely to vote), Britons and Austrians (75%) are least likely to cast their ballots for the 736 MEPs that are due to be elected, while even in Belgium, where voting is compulsory, the Eurobarometer survey suggests that voter turnout will likely hit just 61 percent.

While MEPs have important legislative powers in the area of the single market, affecting almost every one of the bloc's 500 million citizens, and are to see a big increase in their legislative powers under the proposed Lisbon Treaty, their institution remains something of a mystery for many people.

Some 73 percent considered themselves badly informed about the parliament, and while 66 percent think the Brussels chamber is democratic, a significant number also consider it technocratic (40%) and inefficient (36%).

The results are set to irritate euro-deputies who have long been frustrated by the discrepancy between the low voter turnout in European elections and the important legislative powers they have.

They also come despite specific measures taken to raise awareness among the EU public, such as increased media coverage, slots for more spontaneous debating and new rules allowing political parties to set up political foundations as a forum for getting their message across.

However, awareness is set to increase when the parliament closes in April and MEPs begin campaigning to win back their seats.

An additional political twist for this year's election could be the attempt to establish the first pan-European eurosceptic party under Declan Ganley, the Irish anti-Lisbon Treaty campaigner. Mr Ganley led a successful campaign in the run up to the Irish referendum on the Lisbon text, helping secure the No vote victory.

Moreover, voters are also sure to be made aware by the left-wing parties that a vote for the centre-right European People's Party, currently the largest group in the parliament, may lead to Jose Manuel Barroso being re-nominated as head of the European Commission, a post that he has in the past indicated he wants to hold onto.

Analysts argue that if EU personalities are involved and voters can see what the stakes are, then they are more likely to go to the ballot box.

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