If Nigel Farage has achieved one other thing apart from his seismic shifting of the political landscape in the UK following elections for the European Parliament across the European Union on May 22, it’s making politics more interesting again.
And not just in the UK, either.
Unquestionably overshadowing the election for local government councillors that also took place in many constituencies in England and Northern Ireland last week, Farage’s UK Independence Party (UKIP) – firmly to the right-of-centre in political terms – has consistently banged the drum of anti-EU sentiment that is broadly strong in the UK, especially on populist issues such as reducing immigration and its related topic, open borders to any citizen of an EU member state – and closing them.
It’s been touching a chord for many months now, one that translated into votes when it came to the ballot box last Thursday as became readily clear as the election results started to be announced across the EU late on May 25.
In the UK, UKIP out-performed every other party with its share of the vote, and how many MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) they’d be sending to Brussels/Strasbourg.
The big losers are the Liberal Democrats (LD in the chart above), who were just about wiped out in the EU with only one candidate voted in, losing nine others elected in the last European Parliament election in 2009.
So a period of soul-searching begins for the main parties in the UK, less than a year before the general election in May 2015.
If it is, it’s the wrong question.
The right question must be, “How can we re-engage with our citizens that leads them to believe that voting in an election is a compelling act for them?” Here’s the pointer in this map posted by the AFP news agency showing the percentage of non-voters in each EU member state.
While the UK is at 64 percent, it gets worse the further east you travel in Europe – over 77 percent of voters in Poland didn’t vote, for example. The figure was 79 percent in Slovenia and 80 percent in the Czech Republic. And a whopping 87 percent in Slovakia. (I wonder what pro-EU Ukrainians think about the EU and their country’s fractures when they see apathy like this.)
Looking at the UK again, here’s ampp3d’s more dramatic perspective on voter apathy.
It seems clear to me what politicians of every flavour need to do – whether in the UK or in any other of the 28 member states of the European Union – and that is to give voters two things:
- Reasons why they should care
- Reasons why they should vote
Certainly in the UK, it should be a very interesting 335+/- days between now and the forthcoming general election.
- If you’re wondering what the EU election results mean for communications and public affairs, you can find out and add your own voice in a tweetchat on this topic organized by the CIPR, taking place on June 4 at midday UK time. Follow the hashtag #CIPRCHAT.