Current Affairs Turnout takes central place in European elections
Europeans started voting Thursday in elections to the European Parliament with citizens in Britain and the Netherlands leading the way in the 27-country poll. Czechs will vote over the weekend with one of the main questions how far the country’s turbulent campaign will have helped mobilise voters.
While the winner takes it all as regards attention in most national votes, European Parliament votes are different. Here one of the main questions will be just how many of Europe’s 375 million citizens turn out to cast their votes for a parliament in two far off places of which many voters know almost nothing. The parliament seems to be suffering from a paradox that it gains more and more power but less and less interest.
Last time round in 2004, 28.3 percent of Czechs voted for the first time in European elections. Jan Hartl is head of the STEM polling agency. He sees the chance of an improvement on this figure partly as a result of the emotions stirred up by the egg throwing attacks on the Social Democratic leadership.
“Our recent data show that the percentage of people who are firmly decided to take part in the elections is around 31 percent. There have been emotions over the egg battle and under such emotional attack it is very difficult to predict where the turnout can go. My estimation is that it might be around 35 percent.”
As well as the egg throwing, the European elections this time round have also taken on the character of a giant opinion poll ahead of national elections in October. As such they could prove to be a launch pad for those elections or represent a serious setback before that national campaign even gets underway.
“The European election this time has a rather symbolic value. They can not win too much if they succeed but they can lose considerably if they are defeated,” said Mr Hartl.
If the Czech turnout figure is an improvement, it could save the country’s blushes. Last time around only Poland, Estonia and Slovakia had a worse voter turnout figure than the Czechs. Slovakia - with the help of the European Parliament - has invested a lot of effort in trying to make sure that it does not suffer the same fate again. Eggs and the upcoming national elections could be the Czech recipe for saving face.