European Elections Weekend 2009
This weekend is quite an event in terms of democracy. The European Parliament elections provide an opportunity for approaching 500 million people to vote. That is quite something.
With the financial crisis and recession overshadowing these elections, it seems quite reasonable that parties to the right of the political sphere will suffer. However, in many countries the more left leaning parties are not doing so well. It may turn out that at a time when capitalism seems to be in retreat, socialism is unable to press home an advantage.
However, there does seem to be some life in the eurosceptic movements. It appears quite likely that anti-EU parties will win more seats. The Lisbon Treaty may be cast into doubt if they win too many- but this may well be what the voters really want. Only time will tell…
Another very important issue - especially if you work for the European Commission - is the level of voter turnout. In some countries, it was pretty low last time, and, of course, it is expected to fall again. If turnouts continue to drop, the legitimacy of the European institutions is called into question.
In The Craft of Power, a hard to find - and quite scary in places - book from 1979, author R.G.H.Siu says this:
You recognize the essence of democracy beyond the pretenses.
It is the sharing of power.
Most people merely participate in its dance. But you are determined to share.
Well today is the end of the dancing and tonight the opening salvo of the sharing will be announced.
The very nature of the European Parliament means that any party that emerges with a majority will have had to align, deal or make coalitions with others. Some ofÂ these deals are simple, others - from the outside looking in at least - seem nonsensical and sometimes bizarre. But that is the nature of politics!
In the midst of such economic turmoil, these are actually very important elections. Who wins is very important for they will be charged with continuing to chart a course through the recession, banking crisis, climate change and enlargement. No simple issues there!!
The stock markets of Europe may react to the elections tomorrow morning, but it seems unlikely. Outside of a few lonely EU strongholds, the European Parliament is not seen as a market moving institution generally.