EU Elections: Yes, You Must

The one that you want?

The one that you want?

Bremen – “You really ought to cast your vote,” says U., looking at me sternly. This comes all of a sudden. We weren’t talking about politics.
U. is a publican, and I’m having a coffee in her place.
I object. “They aren’t doing their job properly. It seems to me that I’d legitimize the wrong people if I do vote, no matter for whom I vote.”
“That’s what I’ve heard from several people,” she says. “But if you don’t vote, you’ll have no right to complain about their decisions later.”
My feelings seem to be mixed. And I’m wondering how she could read my thoughts about the elections.

U. is usually a voice of reason, and she’s constructive. And she’s very old-fashioned – in a good sense of the word.
But is it true that people who don’t vote must not complain? Aren’t abstentions – and there are going to be many all over Europe – messages from the people, too?

When more than half of the people eligible to vote in America stay away, it’s no drama. Here in Germany, a lot of people – not only politicians –  think that a high abstention rate is bad.

U. is in her sixties. When she was a small born, much of Bremen was still in ruins. Some of her relatives, and many other people she knew as a child, were probably suffering from battlefield injuries, from a war between European countries. A war started by my country. It’s the 65th anniversary of D-Day today. Many more people she knew as a child probably had big psychological problems because of the war. Many older people are probably aware of that, consciously or semi-consciously. That may be their main motivation to vote anyway, despite frustrations. Especially, memory may be their motivation to vote for the European Parliament. The EU parliament is full of people whose parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents had been at war which each other.

Besides, more in general, at least some of my idea to abstain is based on resentment. It isn’t merely the desire do the thing which makes the most sense. But resentment leads to bad karma, and to no improvement.

I was determined to join the ranks of those who don’t vote. Just this exchange of a few words with U. makes me think again.
It’s true – many of our politicians don’t address the real issues. They prefer to campaign about things  which aren’t really about fundamental problems: bad smoking habits, good gun control, and bad, bad paintball. Behind the scenes, they give in to lobbies. They give in to populist demands, too, for fear of becoming unpopular otherwise, and losing their seats. The China Global Times should have correspondents in Brussels and Strasbourg – they could collect tons of ugly material about democracy at work there.

But the sovereign – that’s us, the people -, is no easy client either. How informed and constructive are people who voted the Social Democrats and the Greens into Germany’s government twice, and filled the upper house (which held a veto on lots of legislation) with oppositional politicians most of the time, to axe the federal government’s projects? How can a government perform under such circumstances? And how can we properly assess its performance, if the opposition becomes a co-government?

In the end, I’ll still cast my vote. I’ll vote, although I’m not sure that it’s the right thing to do. I’ll simply trust the experience of an elder.

2 Comments to “EU Elections: Yes, You Must”

  1. I’d like to vote, but I don’t know to vote for whom. I do know what the parties stand for, but that’s only one half of the equation. There are also the politicians that are the other half of the picture. Let me give an example…

    The national election program (Bundestagswahl) of the CDU appeals me very much, but the party also features people like Koch, Schäuble, v. d. Leyen, Schavan, etc. who have no clue what they are talking about, which destroys the beautiful first impression.

    I do know the EU election programs of the parties for the EU parliament, but I don’t know a single person of the EU parliament. I’d really like to hear some discussions of the people behind it first, to be sure to cast the vote correctly. Unfortunately EU parliament members are rarely covered in our news. It’s always: the EU parliament decided….. But rarely do I see which party/person came up with the idea.

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  2. It isn’t my kind of party, but if you like the CDU’s national election platform, except for its ugly motivation to limit civil rights, the FDP could be your best choice… I voted Green today. Would have loved to vote for the Social Dems, but not as long as Dieter Wiefelspuetz speaks for them, and not as long as they try to compete with the PDS for the role of Papa Christmas.
    As for what the EU parliamentarians are doing, I have no great clue either. But they have a say – directly or indirectly – on most of our national law.
    Anyway… if you see no reason to abstain, you can still vote for a weird small party further down that long list 😉

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