Elections nobody's interested in (statement by one of the 44% involuntary nonvoters in Luxemburg)
June 7th 2009 is not only one of the possible dates for the 2009 European Parliament elections. It is also the date for the Legislative elections in Luxembourg.
Yes, as it has been the case in the recent past, this two political events will be held in the same day, the effect of an earlier planning as well as of the stability of Luxemburg governments (for me, as an Italian, any governments lasting the full five years is nothing short of extremely stable!). These two events, apparently so distant, have a lot in common. This commonality has a lot to do with perception.
I think there are a lot of people that live here in Luxembourg and are not particularly impressed or touched by the local legislative election. In general, these people work here, maybe also live here, but are only marginally interested in the political landscape of the country, with its different parties and mechanisms. People simply benefit from the quality of life they have here, the social security as well as a nice environment in which they can work and a correct and balanced level of fiscal pressure. They take these (great) features for granted and they become more and more disinterested in the local politics.
Unfortunately, I have to admit that I am part of this bunch; I am kind of complete stranger in Luxembourg, working and living here, but not participating in its political life. And this is not for lack of interest in politics in general, all the contrary: I tend to follow global events and global directions with a lot of attention and some sort of critical ability. Moreover, I have certain ideas about life, living with other people and what I think is the best model to run a society. And I think a lot of other people that live here have ideas too. We simply do not apply these ideas to the society we live in, Luxembourg. Why?
First of all, as I was saying just above, we do not need to: even without being interested, we receive a lot of great services and efficient administration. We are in great society and we feel that this will continue forever, without any intervention on our part. Secondly, there is the general perception that the political parties are quite far from real problems and that their discussions are self-referential, not answering real questions. Finally, there is the fact that people working and living in Luxembourg but belonging to other nationalities cannot vote. If this could seem rational in no matter which other country (and there is a big IF), in a nation where about 44% of the resident population comes from “outside” some doubts are legitimate. However, this cannot be changed, further decreasing the level of interests of “foreigners” (is this word really adequate?) in local politics.
The example of Luxembourg is striking for its resemblance with the general context of European Parliament elections. The three points highlighted above apply almost completely also to the European elections. With about 73% of European voters confessing to be badly or very badly informed about the parliament’s activities (according to an autumn 2007 poll), the distance is bigger than ever.
Also in the European context, we feel the benefits of this type of organization but we take them for granted.
Also in the European context, we feel the enormous distance between political parties and real problems, much more than in each country’s legislative election.
Also in the European context, even if with a different flavor, we feel the difference of language between our own one and a sort of European one that we do not understand.
What is the solution? It is not an easy one. In Luxembourg, the tumultuous rise in “foreigners” among the residents is still quite recent. In Europe, the very concept of Europe is still quite recent. In both cases, I think that an increased openness to the diversity is needed as well as a better awareness of local as well as European politics. While the former could be complicated, for the latter good sources of information and discussions could already be extremely useful. In this direction, I can suggest a couple of interesting websitesVote Match Europe: an help to match your political preferences with the ones of the major European political groups (http://www.votematch.eu/votematches/EUDebate/English); Smartvote.lu and EuProfiler.eu: another help to discover and analyze your position in the political landscape of the Luxembourg legislative election and European Parliament election respectively, comparing your political preferences with the ones of local parties in Luxembourg and the other European countries; presseurop.eu: an initiative of the European commission for an online European newspaper in ten different languages: really worth trying.