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Why having barriers when voting for the EP?
by Christos Mouzeviris
2011-09-29 07:24:44
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In the last European Parliament elections in 2009 I tried to do my duty and vote, but as I found out the last minute, I could not. Why?  Because while I registered myself on the electoral register here in Ireland, I did not register with the Dublin City Council. I thought that being registered as a voter, would entitled me to vote for both the local and European elections that took place the same day in Ireland. When I arrived in the poling station, they told me that I could not vote for the European elections, only for the local ones. Simply because I did not  register with D.C.C and fill out a form declaring that I would not vote again in another country. It is required to register you see twice, in order to vote. Once to put your name on the voters' registry of the country and a second one, to declare that you are only going to vote once(!!!!).

I was surprised because that was not what I was expecting. I thought that I could not vote because I had to vote for Greek MEPs only. I thought that they wanted me to register for a second time in order to give me ballots from Greek candidate MEPs and that I was not allowed to vote for Irish ones! It seemed to me like a joke the whole thing. When I contacted the responsible authorities in Brussels to complain about it, I receive an e-mail back from the Ombudsman saying that these kind of regulations are put in place so that they prevent people voting in one country, and then going to vote in another country as well. So let's say that I voted over here in Ireland, then took the plane all the way down to Greece and voted again, thus putting two representatives in the EP to represent me. I understand of course that this most likely apply to people that live in neighboring countries, like let's say Germany and France, or Belgium and Holland.

The facts are that we generally have a low turn out in the European elections, especially the last past few years. In some countries the turn out is as low as between 20-30 %! So instead of trying our best to bring people to the poles and increase their interest for the Elections, we are putting more red tape and restrictions in order to protect what exactly? Because honestly, in the past years Europeans are barely bothered in voting at all for the European elections, never mind making the effort in voting twice. They are simply either not interested, or not convinced that they will make any difference.

And who can blame them? They rarely see any broadcasting directly from the EP, and usually they receive bad news about new EU regulations coming from there. So I wonder, what is better: voters that will not bother to go and vote because it simply takes too much red tape? Or people who will vote for the EP with conscience according their wishes, views and dreams for the future for the European continent, the country they live in and the country they are coming from?

Why put so much legislation into these elections, while it should be as easy as the national ones. Just register and you can vote. When voting for the EP, I vote for the betterment of Europe and to promote my interests according my everyday reality. And I have all the motivation to get my back side out my sofa and go and vote. But when it needs so much red tape, is it wonder that some people that are not as keen, are put off even more by the effort they need to put in it? Why having to register twice? Why not harmonize our voters' records and once you move in another country and register there to vote, your records are being moved with you in your new country. Of course that won't be the only solution to bring more voters to participate in the EP elections. But at least we won't put off this small number that want to, but are caught up and confused in all the paper work and typicality.

There are other things of course that must be done to re-enact the interest of the voters for the EP elections. Better and fairer media coverage of news coming out from Brussels would be another. Will it be any wonder that the Greeks won't go and vote in the next European Elections, with all the negative coverage that came out of the whole EU/IMF loans saga and the troubles of this country? To them, it looked as if "Brussels" imposed all those tough austerity measures on them, do we really expect them to go and vote? I will agree of course, that there are other far more important things that Europe and EU must solve first, than linking their electoral records. But even if I personally now know what I must do the next time to vote, there will be others like me that won't give it another chance. They will simply give up. If of course they bother to vote at all in the first place.

How can we re-engage the EU citizens' interests for the European Elections? Well simply by making them believe that there is a real benefit, that it is in their interests to have the EP, that it is working for them promoting their interests. To inform them. Inform our youth during the last year at school before they become citizens about their rights as voters in national and European elections. How to vote while they are still residing in the country of their birth, and what happens once they decide to move. Everything I have learned so far, I did so by doing hours of research, contacting the authorities, being hours on line searching different EU portals on issues like this. Do you think all citizens really bother? Why not make it easier? But above all, why not inspire them to have the interest in voting in the first place, then making it just easier for them too?

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Emanuel Paparella2011-09-29 09:31:17
Indeed, all it takes is for good people to be apathetic and do nothing, and mediocreties will win the day hands down. In effect, it means that in a participatory democracy where the vast majority of people do not bother to vote, those who become senators or parliamentarians or congressmen will be the political opportunists parading as the people’s representatives looking after their common good.

The ancient Greeks, the likes of Plato and Aristotle believed that to know the very soul of a people, all one had to do is examine the political structure of the polis. Come to think of it, democracy did not begin as representative but as participatory. Even in the 18th century, Rousseau, for one, thought that for a viable social contract to take effect democracy could not be representative but participatory. The number of mediocrities in parliaments and congresses around the world is astounding. But then again, people always get the government they deserve. Here in America Congress has now a 13% approval rate. I doubt it that it is much different in the EU.

Aristotle and Rousseau would point out that to govern without the consent of the governed means that the people have a right to change that government, by revolution if necessary. But on the other hand, if it is the apathy of the people which has produced mediocre representation, what right do the people have to complain? Is it any wonder that Plato believed in the philosopher king and the noble lie?…Food for thought.

Emanuel Paparella2011-09-29 18:29:03
Correction: in line two "participatory democracy" should be "representative democracy."

Christos Mouzeviris2011-09-30 00:04:21
Hahaha..True Mr Paparella..And when some active citizens are trying their best to get involved (like me for example) they face barriers and bureaucracy...As if they are trying to make it hard for you to vote..People have lost interest and faith in politics and politicians...Is it their fault, or is it convenient to those who want to rule without resistance..?? More food for thought..!! ;o)

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