Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Give more power to elected bodies and all will be well

Or so we are told by a number of people who seem to think that what people do is less important than how they get there and of all the ways of appointing anyone is by some kind of a ballot. This blog is not against elections or elected legislators but it also considers that constitutional accountability is a higher priority and even elected legislators need to be subjected to some sort of checks in order to have those balances. It is no secret that this blog opposes the idea of an elected House of Lords. Apart from a slightly mystical (and misty-eyed) belief in the absolute goodness of a more or less popular vote no rational argument has been advanced in favour of such a system.

However, all that is for another posting. What concerns us here is the European Parliament a.k.a. the Toy Parliament, which is a huge drain on all our resources for no particular purpose as it does not even have primary legislative powers.

We have all heard the arguments, have we not? The European Parliament, unlike the European Commission (the sole initiator of European legislation), is an elected body and represents the people of Europe, however you may define them. So, in order to breach that democracy deficit we need to give them more powers and that is what recent treaties have done. You would expect the people of Europe to be so delighted by this development that they would rush out in ever increasing number to vote for their European representatives.

Not so but far from it. With every new acquisition of powers, in every European election, fewer people bother to vote.

The sad news is that the turn-out for the 2014 European elections was lower even than for the 2009 ones, in itself lower than anything before. In fact, the turn-out was the lowest since the Toy Parliament had become a directly elected body in 1979.
Voter turnout in May´s European elections was the lowest ever, according to newly-released figures which contradict earlier claims of historic participation.

The 2014 turnout figure of 43.09 per cent, based on exit polls, has now been revised down half a percentage point - putting it lower than the 43 per cent turnout in 2009.

Turnout has steadily dropped from 62 per cent in 1979 and the 2014 figures marks a new low point in voter participation.

Senior EU figures had hailed the initial turnout as "historic" and evidence of the EU successfully bridging a "democratic deficit" with citizens.

Former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt, now an MEP, said the "increase" in turnout, albeit tiny, was “an endorsement of the European project” and EU commissioner Viviane Reding hailed the apparent reversal of the ever-downward trend in voter participation in the EU-wide poll as a "game changer."

However, the 43.09 per cent figure was based on exit polls so was preliminary and it has taken over two months to establish the real figures.

While voter turnout has dropped in every single European election since 1979, the Parliament´s powers have consistently increased and its choice for the next European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, was rubberstamped by member states.
There follows a lot of blah about the need to introduce reforms or something from Open Europe. If readers feel so inclined, they can read it.

It is very satisfying to be able to say that the turn-out in the UK was well under the average at 33.7 per cent, which makes me think that the only lesson the Prime Minister can learn from the European Elections is that the majority of the population cares not a fig for that institution and has no particular preference in the question of whose snouts should be in the trough. And if he does not that yet he must have been hiding in a hut in Outer Mongolia all this time.

Of course, we cannot compete with Slovakia where the turn-out was 13 per cent and in the Czech Republic 18.2 per cent. That was announced on Sunday night. Both figures might have been revised down since then.  

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