In less than a week’s time (between May 23 and May 26), people of voting age across the European continent will be eligible to head to the polls to elect the next European Parliament. The European Union, so often seen as distant and impersonal, bureaucratic and elitist, has a Union-wide vote to elect representatives that will hash it out in the hemicycle, defending their views and that of their constituents.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs for short) are elected by the (somehow still…) 28 member states in a proportional fashion. The number of seats in parliament are allocated based on the size of the country’s population, but the parliamentarians are not grouped in the hemicycle by country but rather by larger political affiliation. MEPs, unlike what you might think, have the duty and power to oversee the EU institutions that are not directly elected. The European Parliament is an important institution that affects most of our lives, yet turnout for European elections have steadily declined since the 70s.
However, if nothing else, Brexit has made the European Union a more prominent entity in the psyche of the average European citizen, where it was often seen as a vague bureaucratic institution equally vaguely relevant to our lives. The recent Eurobarometer survey suggests that support for the European Union is at an all time high. That is not to say there is nothing wrong with the organisation, its policies, and the bureaucracy that accompanies an intergovernmental organisation of its magnitude, but exactly the flaws and its potential is why it is of utmost importance for us to vote. Especially in a world where topics such as the climate, tackling economic injustice and inequality, health injustice and inequality, youth unemployment, xenophobia and racism, and the future of the union itself are firmly on the ballot.
It seems to be a truth universally acknowledged that the European Elections are the elections no one cares about. However, in the shadow of Brexit, the continental pull to the far-right, and yet a relatively positive attitude towards the European Union amongst the young, I think it is imperative that we vote and prove the “universally acknowledged truth” wrong. Vote on 23-26 May. Your vote matters.
(P.S. If you haven’t got a clue who to vote for, you can match your opinions to several of the political fractions in the European Parliament here, and even match that to parties in your own country.)