Post-election analysis: Between apathy and anger, but no earthquake

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In light of the election results, the new European Parliament will be less in favour of further enlarging the EU, more conservative and ‘stingy’ in terms of EU budget resources, more conservative on CAP-related issues and possibly more divided over fundamental rights-related issues, argues a June paper from the European Policy Centre (EPC). But the new EU assembly will be more engaged on climate change-related issues and legislation and ever-more focused on foreign and security policy matters,” it adds.

“An ever-decreasing number of EU citizens participate in the election of a body whose powers have constantly increased over the past two decades, thus raising issues of legitimacy and credibility,” states the paper.

However, “if and when the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, the Strasbourg assembly will acquire co-decision powers over as much as 80-90% of EU legislation,” the EPC recalls.

“The overall turnout of roughly 43% of the 375 million eligible voters […] displays the high degree of apathy and lack of interest already apparent throughout the electoral campaign across the 27 member states,” the paper says.

It also reflects “the (mistaken) perception that these elections were of secondary importance, as they were not intended to choose a governmentpresents,” according to the paper.

“If there has been a single unifying theme in the campaign, it has not been the EU and its policies, but rather the impact of the economic crisis on European societies,” it adds.

“European voters have responded in different ways to the crisis,” the paper explains. “Politically speaking, the ‘family’ that has been hit hardest has unquestionably been the Party of European Socialists (PES)”.

According to the EPC, the reasons for this “painful blow” are “numerous but converging”: political divisions inside the ‘family’, the lack of an identifiable policy response to the crisis, the erosion of traditional constituencies and the absence of leading figures.

“By contrast, and somewhat unexpectedly, the European People’s Party (EPP) ‘family’ has done fairly well, considering that centre-right parties have been in office in many EU countries since the current crisis began to unfold,” the paper states.

“As a result, the EPP has further strengthened its pivotal role in the new assembly, as no viable coalition appears possible without it to produce consistent legislation and consensual decisions,” the EPC comments.

“Elected MEPs will be involved in shaping more and more policies, sometimes with powers that are stronger than those of national MPs,” the EPC insists.

“This makes it all the more lamentable that the recent campaign for the Parliament elections largely failed to address the key issues the assembly will deal with over the next five years,” the EPC concludes. 

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