Reflections on the European Parliament Election Results 2009
With just 43.1% of Europe’s 375 million eligible voters showing up at the polls in June, the historical trend that has seen fewer and fewer citizens voting in the European Parliament elections continues.
And this year’s sorry turnout (strikingly low in the new Member States in particular) was not as bad as it could have been. In many countries, European elections were combined with national or other administrative votes drawing more people to the polling stations.
This lack of interest or apathy is set against the growing powers of the parliament. The worrying gap between the parliament’s ‘input’ legitimacy (in other words the mandate that politicians receive from their constituents) on the one hand, and the increasing powers of the parliament on the other, is set to grow if the Lisbon treaty comes into force.
In many cases, the vote was decided on the basis of national campaigns. As such, the European elections often represented a dress-rehearsal for later national elections, and may have been used by many of those who did vote, to vent their anger about national affairs, and their frustration in the face of the current economic crisis.
In general terms these elections saw a shift of power to the right: Centre-right parties triumphed, while support for centre-left parties significantly receded. Smaller parties did notably better than larger parties, with gains for the greens and parties on the far right and left .
The elections generated , then, a rather fragmented new assembly – 40% of MEPs will not sit in either the European People’s party (EPP) or the European Socialist Party (PES - now to be known as the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and democrats to take in the members of the Italian Democratic Party) which have formed grand coalitions in previous parliaments. A more fragmented parliament may make it difficult to form stable majorities and ad hoc majorities on different issues may be more likely.
The formation of the new political groupings is for the most part complete, but will be finalized on July 15th 2009 with the first session of the new parliament.
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