Indications are that turnout at the upcoming elections to the European Parliament in June are going to set a new record: the highest level of abstention ever. Not good!
The EU is a huge project. It is, in many ways, the prerogative of the states to set its agenda – but not unfettered. There is a strong democratic strand running through it. That is the European Parliament, the only directly elected institution the Union has.
It does have quite a say in the way the Union is run and what sort of regulations it can impose. So far, that is restricted to reviewing the directives proposed by the Commission and Council, and that is already valuable.
The Lisbon Treaty, if of course it is ratified by the Irish, will extend its reach, opening more areas up to the so-called co-decision procedure (the EU has spawned a lot of jargon..) and, crucially, giving the European Parliament the right to initiate proceedings as well.
So to ensure the EU remains solidly democratic and close to the 450 million people in Europe, Parliament needs to be supported. Which means going out to vote.
An abstention may, in certain circumstances, be a positive, constructive choice. Here, it seems to be no more than an abdication from the whole scope of democracy. To put it another way, if you do not vote, you cannot then complain that the EU is not democratic.
With a low turnout, it won’t be. But for one reason only: that is what the masses of eligible voters who chose specifically not to participate have said, clearly, that they do not want democracy.
Can we afford to let governments and bureaucrats decide, uncontrolled and unmonitored, just what sort of a world we live in? No: that’s why we elect representatives to Parliament. So let’s do it!