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Dominika Pszczółkowska

Dominika Pszczolkowska is a Polish journalist. Since 2007 she has been the Brussels correspondent for Gazeta Wyborcza, the largest Polish quality daily.
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Why Poles hate voting in European Parliament elections

Only 13% of Poles are planning to vote in the European Parlimanent election, the newest Eurobarometer tells us. That's less than in any other country in the EU.

The average for the whole EU is 34%, while among the most interested Belgians 70% plan to vote (which is still not enormous considering that voting is obligatory in Belgium).

People often ask me why the Poles are not interested in European elections. The last time, in 2004, only 21% voted, which was the second lowest in the EU after Slovakia.

Five years ago there seem to have been two main reasons: 1. national elections were approaching, so the political parties were saving their fire; 2. we had recently voted (in large numbers - 58% participation) to join the EU and had just joined. The typical reaction of a less educated Pole was: "I already said yes, what are they asking me again?".

This time we have been in the EU for five years, and the presidential election in 2010 is still not discussed much. Also, people are not as disillusioned with the political class as they were in 2004. In fact, the govening Civic Platform is near 50% support, which is unprecedented. Finally, the candidates are interesting and sometimes very well known figures (see my previous posts). So I really don't see any excuse for empty ballot boxes.

Well, maybe just a few, if you really want an explanation:

1. The European Parliament is not a well known institution. It is almost inexistant on TV, and much less existant in papers than for example the European Commission. I have to admit in non-election times I myself rarely write big stories devoted exclussively to the EP (rather I pop in a MEP here or there when writing about broader issues). And when I do write them, they are not exactly an easy sell to my editors.

The trouble very often is that the EP is not the first in the decision-making chain. So I write a big story that "The Commission is planning law X" and only a small follow up when "The EP has agreed to law X". Unless of course the EP does not agree or changes significant parts.

2. There are absolutely no European issues, or in fact any issues in this election campaign.

The question in Poland seems to be: will the governing Civic Platform reach the magic 50%? Or will the Kaczyński's Law and Justice prevent it from doing so by getting a good score themselves?

Finally for some of the left (as we have 2 main left wing parties now) the question is: will they get in at all? All this is of course very interesting for us political junkies, but I forgive the common Pole for not giving a...

3. Finally - just by way of explanation not justification - the Poles don't have a huge tradition of voting in elections. In national parliamentary elections only forty-something % vote, in presidential ones fifty- or at best sixty-something.

But I am still hoping for a lively campaign which will keep us away from the podium of non-voters.  

 

wtorek, 14 kwietnia 2009, dominique

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