In the run-up to the European Union's Parliamentary elections next week, ideology has taken a backseat to a general grumbling for political change. Unfortunately, this grumbling is unlikely to be backed by actual votes.
The parties that control Europe's 27 different national governments are expected to loose seats in the E.U.'s central legislative body.
In Spain, the two parties that have dominated the country's politics since Francisco Franco's death in 1975 are competing for Spain's E.U. delegates. Though the center-right People's Party is predicting victory over the ruling center-left Socialist Party, the PP's win is not looking like a landslide.
According to a poll in La Vanguardia, "91 percent of Spanish and 80 percent of Catalans are unhappy with Spanish politics." The Barcelona daily says the primary factors contributing to a potential wash for Spanish MEP's this year are "political apathy, abstentions in protest, and protest votes against the party in power." All three positions are seen as a result of the economic crisis.
Low voter turnout is expected across Europe particularly in the Netherlands and in France, which expects less than a 50 percent turnout. While over 80 percent of the French electorate voted in the last presidential election, Le Monde reports that voters are losing faith in the major parties--Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement and the Socialist Party. Big Think previously blogged that smaller French parties, some of them fringe groups, could see gains. Libération opines that "lack of interest in the election is not a sign of a mature democracy, but a congenital condition of the Parliament."
In addition to economic misgivings, there is the perennial worry that a unified E.U. authority comes at the expense of sovereign national authority, but this is far from the truth. Parliament is elected every five years and its mandate covers long-term, supranational issues such as labor markets, global warming and trade regulations. Its tendency is to put constraints on future Parliaments, not national governments.
Not everyone will abstain from the elections, of course, but it may turn out that the best interests lack conviction and the worst win by passionate intensity alone. Right-wing parties skeptical of immigrants who are perceived to be stealing jobs are seizing the moment to stoke popular fears and sway Europe back to a continent of disjointed states. Even in areas once traditionally pro-European, vultures have been seen circling in the sky.