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Apathy may hit EU vote but who cares?

Monday, May 19, 2014 - 02:52

May 19 - There are fears voter apathy will lead to a low turnout at the imminent European Parliament elections, when Eurosceptic parties are expected to do well. Support for the EU has crumbled in recent years even in the bloc's co-founder France. Joanna Partridge looks at the efforts made to entice voters to polling stations.

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The posters are up, elections are looming - but how many Europeans will vote? Ahead of European Parliament elections in the 28-nation bloc, there are fears voter apathy will once again isee a low turnout later this week. Some students don't even recognise the candidates. SOUNDBITE: FEMALE STUDENT AT MARIE-HAPS INSTITUTE OF BRUSSELS, SAYING (English): "I don't really know anything about it." SOUNDBITE: ENGLISH STUDENT, MATT GREGG, SAYING (English): "I think I've seen him on posters around, as we've been cycling through Belgium. I don't know who he is though." Eurosceptic parties are expected to poll well though. Support for the EU's even crumbled in co-founder France - a recent survey showed just 51% of the French back EU membership, down from 67% a decade ago. If turnout across the bloc compares with the last vote in 2009, it'll be around 40% - though it was lower in nations like the UK, Poland and Slovakia. Dimokritos Kavadias from the Free University of Brussels expects turnout to be even lower. SOUNDBITE: DIMOKRITOS KAVADIAS, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR AT THE FREE UNIVERSITY OF BRUSSELS, SAYING (English): "For the whole EU, will be around 27.5%." Nora Hesse's from Open Europe Berlin, a independent think tank calling for EU reform. SOUNDBITE: Nora Hesse, Deputy Head, Open Europe Berlin, saying (English): "Ever since the European Parliament has been directly elected by the citizens of the European Union, on the one hand turnout has decreased in every single election, while on the other hand the European Parliament has gained more and more powers. In many areas it can pass EU legistlation on an equal footing with national governments, so this obvious mismatch between the two trends speaks very poorly for the democractic legimitacy of the European Parliament." Some blame the disenchantment on financial austerity. And voters could choose fringe parties to send a message to their national governments. The UK's been eurosceptic for a long time - and may even hold a referendum on EU membership in the next few years. Walking around London you might not even realise local and European elections were coming up - there's a distinct lack of candidate posters. There are reminders to people to go and vote - but that may not be enough to increase turnout. The perception of a distant elite in Brussels doesn't help, says Mike Ingram from BGC Partners. SOUNDBITE: Mike Ingram, BGC Partners, saying (English): "It's a dangerous loop to be in, if you have low turnout, then the end result isn't seen as being totally legitimate, then you have these peopel who are elected on a very, very small turnout then dictating policy and then you say what on earth are they talking about, we won't vote the next time." The EU's been reaching out to young people to get them involved via social media. And live debates - here 700 young people put questions to leading candidates for the presidency of the European Commission. But at a time of high youth unemployment, dismal job prospects, and fears of a lost generation, youth turnout is predicted to fall to an all-time low.

Apathy may hit EU vote but who cares?

Monday, May 19, 2014 - 02:52

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