Go Vote.

It is not just my personal experience that many people’s opinions about the EU and its institutions are predominantly based on a political chicken and egg problem: No one knows what came first, ignorance or lack of interest; however, both do a great job in reinforcing each other.

A particularly eye-opening experience for me was the change of hearts of a conservative friend who is now a lonely Europhile in the Tory party. Only a couple of days of un-biased research for a paper about the EU and much of the previous Superstate rethoric had to become intellectually dishonest. Sure, institutional Europe does feature a certain, and often bemoaned “democratic deficit”. But more importantly, I’d say, Europe lacks citizens appreciating the importance of the democratic procedures already in place.

But this, I suggest, is much less the people’s fault than now suggested by the same media that usually avoids explaining the complexity and importance of European governance for our life; a little because many journalists have a hard time with complexity themselves, but more importantly, because the technocratic and rather invisible way politcs is done in Brussels – while appreciated by national politicians – does not make good tv.

The media thus usually constructs a simplified national reality that not accurately reflects the true nature of our multi-level political systems. With respect to Germany, it may be indicative of this trend that Wolfgang Klein, a former EU correspondent for the German public network ARD, who once produced a very informative yet little known programme about the EU, has now moved to Berlin and become the editor of the much less informative, yet influential, political talk show “Christiansen“. Gresham’s law applies to eyeballs, too.

After the first direct election to the European Parliament political scientists Karlheinz Reif and Herrman Schmitt stipulated that it was largely a “second order national contest“. Subsequent analyses largely confirmed their intuitive proposition that national, not the European political agendas and political alternatives are the most decisive factors for European voters – while the electoral consequences are deemed less important. Reif and Schmitt’s research was published at a time when the European Parliament did in fact not have nearly as much influence as it has today. Strangely though, in light of the seeming predominance of the national political sphere, it does still seem somewhat cynically appropriate to group the EU elections with local elections, as in Britain or some regions of Germany – why not get over with all second order elections at the same time?

So should you still have doubts about your choice for the European election and will cast your vote in Germany, why not take a look at the European “Wahl-O-mat“, if only to give this election the consideration it deserves.

The application has been developed by an independent editorial board in cooperation with the German Bundeszentrale f?r Politische Bildung (Federal Centre for Political Education) and the Dutch Instituut voor Publiek en Politiek, which developed the original application “Stemwijzer“. They do still offer a Stemwijzer for the Dutch EU elections, but it might be a little late for a change of heart there.

For everybody not voting in the Netherlands or in Germany, votematch.net offers the first Stemwijzer derived electoral helper-tool based on the European party system, not national lists – and it’s in English. One word of advice though – don’t be shocked if the result isn’t what you expect – should you expect something. The weighting seems a little arbitrary at times, despite the possibility to choose areas of importance in the end.

Interestingly, in the German case, answering “neutral” for all 30 questions leads to a recommendation to vote for the Social Democrats. And somehow I wasn’t even surprised…

This entry was posted in A Fistful Of Euros, The European Union by Tobias Schwarz. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tobias Schwarz

German, turned 30 a while ago, balding slowly, hopefully with grace. A carnival junkie, who, after studies in business and politics in Mannheim, Paris, and London, is currently living in his hometown of Mainz, Germany, again. Became New Labourite during a research job at the House of Commons, but difficult to place in German party-political terms. Liberal in the true sense of the term.

His political writing is mostly on A Fistful of Euros and on facebook these days. Occasional Twitter user and songwriter. His personal blog is almost a diary. Even more links at about.me.

9 thoughts on “Go Vote.

  1. I agree with the first part of your post.
    I have a problem with this “stemwijzer” or vote-match suggestions.
    I wrote my objections before in Dutch (http://www.fransgroenendijk.nl/comments.php?id=P350_0_1_0)

    The most important part of my criticism comes down to the fact that all of the programs that help you to decide (we have more of them in the Netherlands, although the stemwijzer is very dominant with millions of visits with the national elections!) are based on the ideology and the pious wishes formulated bij the parties themselves. In no way the actual behavior and results of the party in the years between the elections is taken into account.

    No stemwijzer would ever suggest me to vote for Paul van Buitenen.
    The reasons I gave him my vote where his anti-ideological approach, his honesty and perseverance.

  2. Frans – The rest of us in the EU owe you in the Netherlands for electing Paul van Buitenen to the European Parliament. It is immensely reassuring to know that here and there demcoracy still functions as it ought to.

    Regretfully, I have to say that his name is not widely known in Britain although it is not difficult to retrieve webpages reporting his role as a Commission civil servant in starting the debate in 1998 which led to the appointment of an “expert panel” to investigate the charges of fraud, nepotism and mismanagement in the European Commission. The eventual outcome was the mass resignation of all the EU Commissioners in March 1999. I’ve collected a few links to BBC webpages for those who want to refresh their recollections of those times:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/253485.stm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/253367.stm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/297464.stm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2219114.stm

    I think we should all watch to see how Paul van Buitenen gets on in the Parliament for I fear a dirty tricks campaign to discredit him and minimise his influence in shaking up the Commission. Most of us hoped and expected that the mass resignation of all the Commissioners in 1999 would signal an end to embedded corruption in the Commission. Unfortunately, the news that surfaced last summer of the problems in Eurostat and OLAF showed those hopes to be ill-founded: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3138390.stm

    It was not reassuring to learn last November that the European Court of Auditors had refused to endorse the EU Commission accounts for the ninth year in a row: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/3688241.stm

  3. I just did the Stemwijzer and discovered that if I were actually able to vote in the Netherlands, I’d be best advised to vote D66, followed by GroenLinks. My main disagreements with D66 are on the subjects of GMOs and privatization, whereas GroenLinks disagrees with my views on transport policy.

    This is all highly academic, because I won’t be able to vote on any level above gemeentedeelraad for 5 years, at the earliest. Thanks, LPF (with whom I disagree on practically everything).

  4. “No one knows what came first, ignorance or lack of interest; however, both do a great job in reinforcing each other.”

    The least attractive part of the EU project is the pervasive view of those who support it that all opposition to expanding competence is based on “ignorance”. It is a Gaullist style contempt for European publics and I am sorry to see you indulge in it.

  5. Would you have a problem with the US appraoch where the chairman of the federal reserve bank reports twice a year to a Congress committee?
    Of course this requires initiatives from the European Parliament, not finance ministers.

  6. Frans – I’ve no problem with the idea of the head of the European Central Bank reporting twice a year to the European Parliament or a select committee of it. Governors of the Bank of England quite often appear by invitation before select committees of our House of Commons, although there doesn’t seem to be any fixed arrangement about the regularity.

    A historic “European” problem since WW2, with honourable exceptions such as Germany and Switzerland, has been one where several governments, including Britain’s in the past, have been soft on curbing inflation. I fear a return to those times if a notion gains hold that the prevailing high unemployment rates in the major Eurozone economies – although not most smaller economies in the Eurozone – is due to insufficient monetary demand and that this could be corrected if the ECB takes “political aspirations” into account besides its self-adopted remit to target the average inflation rate across the Eurozone and manage its monetary policy accordingly.

    The acute danger is that the ECB will be set up as a scapegoat in the political blame game to explain away persistent high unemployment rates in some national economies in the Eurozone but evidently not in others. The useful starting points for analysis are to look into the causes of the current dispersions of unemployment and inflation rates within the Eurozone and consider why it is that Britain has lower rates of both inflation and unemployment than the Eurozone as well as a higher rate of GDP growth. Could it be, as some have suggested, that market sclerosis due to over-regulation and structural factors within the control or influence of national governments are more responsible for persistently high unemployment in some national economies than any deficiency in aggregate demand? After all, some of us noticed that by end 1995, Britain’s standardised unemployment rate fell below that of France, Germany or Italy and has stayed lower since.

  7. The latest issue of The Economist comments on the pressures on the ECB to cut interest rates:

    ” . . In recent weeks, both Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s finance minister, and Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s prime minister, have publicly called on the European Central Bank to cut interest rates. In the future, politicians might again put real pressure on central bankers to let inflation rip, because this would reduce the value of the enormous debt that governments may have to borrow to meet the costs of an ageing population. . . ” – from: http://www.economist.com/opinion/displayStory.cfm?story_id=2766337

Comments are closed.

Go vote.

It is not just my personal experience that many people’s opinion’s about the EU and its institutions are predominantly based on a political chicken and egg problem: No one knows what came first, ignorance or lack of interest; however, both do a great job in reinforcing each other.

A particularly eye-opening experience was the change od hearts of a conservative friend who now actually works for the Tory party. Only a couple of days of un-biased research for a paper about the EU and much of the previously stated Superstate rethoric had become obsolete and intellectually dishonest.

Sure, institutional Europe does feature a certain, and often bemoaned “democratic deficit”. But more importantly, I’d say, Europe lacks citizens appreciating the importance of the democratic procedures already in place. But this, I suggest, is much less the people’s fault than now suggested by the same media that usually avoids explaining the complexity and importance of European governance for our life. A little because many journalists have a hard time with complexity themselves, but more importantly, because the technocratic and rather invisible way politcs is done in Brussels – while appreciated by national politicians – does not make good tv.

The media thus usually constructs a simplified reality that not accurately reflects the true nature of our multi-level political system. With respect to Germany, it may be indicative of this trend that Wolfgang Klein, a former EU correspondent for the German public network ARD, who once produced a very informative yet little known programme about the EU, has now moved to Berlin and become the editor of the much less informative, yet influential, political talk show “Christiansen“. Gresham’s law applies to eyeballs, too.

After the first direct election to the European Parliament the political scientists Karlheinz Reif and Hermann Schmidt stipulated that it was largely a “second order national contest”. Subsequent analyses largely confirmed their intuitive proposition that the national, not the European political agenda – and electoral alternatives – are the most decisive factor for voters. That was at a time when the Parliament did not have nearly as much influence as it has today. Strangely though, in light of the predominance of the national political sphere, it does seem somewhat cynically appropriate to group the EU elections with local elections, as in Britain or some regions of Germany – why not get over with all second order elections at the same time?

So should you still have doubts about the your choice for the European election and will cast your vote in Germany, why not take a look at the European “Wahl-O-mat“, if only to give this election the consideration it deserves. The application has been developed by an independent editorial board in cooperation with the German Bundeszentrale f?r Politische Bildung (Federal Centre for Political Education) and the Dutch Instituut voor Publiek en Politiek, which developed the original application “stemwijzer“. They do still offer a Stemwijzer for the Dutch EU elections, but then it might be a little late for a change of heart in this respect.

For everybody not voting in the Netherlands or in Germany, votematch.net offers the first Stemwijzer derived electoral helper-tool based on European party statements, not those of national lists – and it’s in English. One word of advice though – don’t be shocked if the results aren’t what you expect. The weighting seems a little arbitrary at times, despite the possibility to choose areas of importance in the end.

Interestingly, answering “neutral” for all 30 questions leads to a recommendation to vote for the Social Democrats in the German case. And somehow I wasn’t even surprised…

This entry was posted in A Few Euros More, The European Union by Tobias Schwarz. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tobias Schwarz

German, turned 30 a while ago, balding slowly, hopefully with grace. A carnival junkie, who, after studies in business and politics in Mannheim, Paris, and London, is currently living in his hometown of Mainz, Germany, again. Became New Labourite during a research job at the House of Commons, but difficult to place in German party-political terms. Liberal in the true sense of the term.

His political writing is mostly on A Fistful of Euros and on facebook these days. Occasional Twitter user and songwriter. His personal blog is almost a diary. Even more links at about.me.