I am obviously not alone in worrying about next year’s European elections. Here in Brussels we are witnessing a flurry of initiatives that are trying to tackle key concerns. You will say, how useful is it do do things in Brussels? You are right, but some – actually a lot – of these initiatives may have started here but are meant for the wider European audience that will vote – or not – in next year’s elections.
One such initiative is MyVote2014, a website created by the VoteWatch Europe team – the one that tells you which European parliamentarian is voting what on which topic. MyVote2014 is a special tool that starts by asking your opinion on 15 key issues and then compares this with the views of members of the European Parliament (MEPs) that have actually voted on those issues. The aim is:
- to give you a sense of what is happening in the European Parliament;
- to show you that your vote counts; and
- to tell you who – in terms of national or European party or single MEP – might be closest to your opinion, to help decide who to vote for.
More broadly the site is trying to engage people. The main ‘target’ are young voters across the continent. So, I had to try it! OK, OK…am no longer in that age bracket, but anyone is invited to have a go – just like in next year’s elections!
The tool is very well done. Cool, clear, simple and based on solid data: each issue has an explanation, a short list of arguments for and against, and a section that tells you which MEP has voted in favour of that particular issue and which against. Once you have made your choice, the ‘results’ appear, i.e. a list of MEPs (which you can divide per country or political affiliation) sharing your ideas, broken down by percentage of agreement. You can also compare your choices with the choices of national political parties, if you are more familiar with them. It is true that – as pointed out at the launch – it does not have yet the list of new candidates which means that the votes you see are only those of sitting MEPs who might not run in next year’s elections. But, they say, once these new candidates are known, they too will be asked to cast their vote, so you will have an idea of what they think as well.
The tool is very well done. You have said it already, Virginia. Yes, I have. I am repeating because I want to make a point.
So, as I was repeating, the tool is very well done. But you have TO GO to the site to see that it is very well done. Only 29% of young voters bothered to vote at the last EP elections. How are we going to reach the other 71%? Will they go to the MyVote2014 site? How will we convince them to do so? And even if they do go to the site, and even take the test, will they go and vote afterwards? I fear not. The sense of mistrust, anger even, towards national political parties has never been stronger; and, when it comes to European rather than national elections, one has to add distance, lack of knowledge and lack of interest; an truly explosive set of ingredients that would and will keep many away from the polling booths.
I will do my best to tell people about the site and will continue to hope for increased interest in these elections. Not just from those who want to express a protest vote but also from those, such as myself, who believe that a better Europe, a stronger Europe, a more influential Europe is one where citizens have a say and express their opinion freely. An opinion based on facts and data rather than emotional lies used for political expediency.