Imagine that you are about to vote in a local elections tomorrow. You evaluate the performance of the team in power in your area and examine the alternatives proposed by the opposition. And on the basis of this analysis, you come to a decision about how you intend to cast your vote.
Now imagine that on election night, to everyone’s surprise, the authorities in charge of the vote suddenly announce: “Following a series of computer, administrative and communication errors, the elections that were held today were not local but general elections. We have therefore decided to group together all of the votes for candidates fielded by each of the political parties in the same region, and to appoint MPs to parliament as though they had won seats in a general election.”
You might think that all of this is nonsense, but it is pretty much the principle that governs European elections. Voters opt to punish or reward parties on the basis of their local performance; thereafter, politicians and “experts” will spend a few days deciphering the “message” that citizens wish to “send” to government and to the opposition. But once the future parliamentarians begin to travel to Brussels and Strasbourg, they form political groups with MEPs from other countries, and take decisions in the certain knowledge that voters will not call on them to account for their actions in five years time.
The figures speak for themselves. In a survey conducted by the Spanish Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas (CIS) in the wake of European elections in 2009, only 13.7 per cent of respondents said “issues relating to the European Union and the European Parliament” had determined how they chose to vote, while 58.6 per cent acknowledged that they were mainly influenced by “the current political situation in Spain.”
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