Fifth edition

To vote or not to vote? Young people’s feelings towards the European election

Will you vote for the European election? I gathered feedback from friends from several countries and asked them whether they think they will cast their votes. In the end I got many different answers. This article shows, in no way representatively of course, the variety of feelings towards this European election.

We are free to 'vote' for the European election but also free 'not to vote'. I decided to vote via mail.

We are free to ‘vote’ for the European election but also free ‘not to vote’. What’s your choice?

Franziska Brinkmann│Franziska_Brinkmann@gmx.de

News about the special party congresses as well as advertisement campaigns all over the internet constantly remind us that from 22nd to 25th of May, Europeans will have another chance to vote.

How do young people feel about the upcoming elections? Are they eager to vote or not?

How do young people feel about the upcoming elections?

I gathered feedback from friends from several countries and asked them whether they think they will cast their votes and the reason why. In the end I got many different answers. This article shows, in no way representatively of course, the variety of feelings towards this European election.

This May, once more, most people in Europe will have the freedom to vote. I say most people, since there are of course, many people living in Europe without having citizenship (like many of my Euroculture friends). I also say this because there are four nations in the EU that have the legal obligation to vote: Belgium, Cyprus, Greece and Luxembourg[1]. For all other Europeans it’s time to decide first of all if they are going to vote at all.

My own research on the European elections began when I tried to figure out how voting is going to work for me this time. Due to the MA Euroculture programme I am in Krakow right now, far away from my assigned ballot box in Göttingen, Germany. To tell you something about my voting behaviour right away: I always vote and it does not matter if it is a regional, national or European election. Since I am in a programme concerned with European culture and politics now, I feel even more obliged to do so.

“I always vote and it does not matter if it is a regional, national or European election…”

When I started looking online for a way to apply for postal vote, there was nothing online. While waiting for the application to begin I talked to several friends and acquaintances of mine how they felt about it. They had a variety of opinions. I must say that I accept all of them. The freedom to vote also provides you with the freedom not to do so.

A friend of mine from Germany said “I do not really feel as a European, maybe rather German, but far more as member of my local community”. He does not believe that he has impact on European politics. Also to him the candidates seem rather as a rejection of national politics than serious contestants. “All the poor German politicians are dumped in Brussels and keep on doing poor work there”. For him local elections are more important since he knows the candidates, sometimes even in person but in the European election he admits: “To be honest I do not even know whom to cast my vote for”.

“I do not really feel as a European, maybe rather German, but far more as member of my local community…”

Other friends are going to cast their votes most definitely. Some explain that they want to use their “chance to impact things” (Julia, 25) and also argue that “Only those who vote will have the option to complain afterwards, when politicians screw it up” (Viet, 23). Szymon (24) states that he is simply voting in every election, no matter which.

However they are not all optimistic about this election. Some perceive European politics as rather undemocratic and far from the actual people. For Patrycia (23) this election feels like “a kind of a fiction”. Still she will use her chance to participate in European politics. Another friend stresses that due to the distance of Parliament and people “it is even more important to vote in order to give legitimacy to the European Parliament. Additionally I consider these elections as especially important, since Euro-skeptical parties use smear campaigns and xenophobia to mobilise voters. We should vote to prevent them from rising”.

“I consider European elections especially important…”

The concern of radical parties entering the Parliament is shared by Serena (23) and Mark (26). However to Mark it is also important “that the EU Parliament gets more publicity, since they are making a lot of important decisions for us. Europe is close to my heart, since I can’t imagine a life without common currency, travelling without borders and all my friends from all over Europe”. Serena is concerned by the little interest that some people show in this topic. In her point of view the elections “will deeply affect the Union’s politics”.

“Europe is close to my heart, since I can’t imagine a life without what it has brought to me…”

Meanwhile I am still trying to figure out how this post ballot thing works. Very few information is provided online. Many websites have not even been updated since the last European election. Never the less I try to find my way. I don’t want to miss an important deadline. The e-mail I send returns to my mailbox with an error report. I have to call my local authority and they can finally help me to apply. They say they are going to send me my ballot, but not before mid-April. And that I will send back to them on my own expense.

That makes it easy to understand Judith’s (24) view on the elections. “I will not go to vote during the upcoming elections, because I’m on Erasmus now and from here it’s too difficult. Right now I do not really care about politics in my country. I think that’s not good and that I should care, because it has impact on my life. Usually I go to vote, but now I just cannot decide, because I don’t have enough information and it’s too difficult to manage all this abroad.

“I will not go to vote during the upcoming elections because I am on my Erasmus…”

Also Heloisa (24) from Italy is not going to vote. She explains: “I know almost nothing about their programmes and I have no time and will to go check.” So for her this election is of minor importance. “I think my vote won’t change much anyway, whatever there could be to change.” She shares the doubts in the impact of her vote as well as the overall election that also my voting friends have.

I am still waiting for the letter to come, checking my mailbox but nothing has arrived so far. This means more time for me to make myself familiar with the programmes of parties and the profiles of the candidates. Maybe there’s even time for some of my friends to change their mind in one way or the other.

I am still waiting for the letter to come, checking my mailbox…

Overall the majority of the young people I talked told me they plan to cast their votes at the European election. Out of the 11 friends that took the time to answer my question 8 gave a positive reply. However half of those had a rather sceptical view on the impact of their votes. Three had a neutral position and only one stressed his support for the work of the European Union. No matter what opinion they had: All of them had clear ideas why they would vote and why not. In this European election they have already made their first decision, which is to vote or not to vote. This is, after all, also part of our freedom.

Franzi’s ballot has arrived at the end of April and she’s ready to vote now. 

[1] http://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/residence/elections-abroad/ep-elections/index_en.htm

franzi 2Franziska Brinkmann, Contributing Writer

Franziska is from Germany. For her BA, she studied Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Göttingen and Western Washington University. Currently she is in Kraków as part of the MA Euroculture programme. In her free time she travels around Poland and explores its amazing cultures. In the future, she would like to work with international students, making educational exchanges easier for all parties involved.

 

 

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