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European Parliamentary Elections: Global Lessons from a Regional Political Crisis

Birchfield, Vicki L. and Harris, Geoffrey (2015) European Parliamentary Elections: Global Lessons from a Regional Political Crisis. [Conference Proceedings] (Submitted)

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    In May 2014 for the eighth time in the history of European integration, citizens across Europe had the opportunity to vote in the only directly elected transnational legislative elections in the world. This was the first EU parliamentary election held since the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, which brought political and institutional changes ostensibly designed to enhance the democratic legitimacy of the EU. Ironically, neither the expanded powers of the European Parliament, nor its rallying slogan of “this time it’s different” succeeded in mobilizing voters and instead, the downward trend in turnout continued with an abstention rate of nearly 58 %. What was in fact ‘different this time’ around was the strongest showing to date of radical right and anti-EU parties gaining a record number of seats. This paper aims to show that this result is intrinsically linked to the on-going global economic crisis and the subsequent austerity policies adopted by the EU, which created a veritable Petri dish for growth of populist backlash. In contrast to media characterizations of the election outcome as a “political earthquake” and a disaster for the European project, we argue that the results were fairly predictable and less damaging than generally presumed by critics of the purported democratic deficit. To substantiate this assertion, we put EU voter turnout and the present partisan and ideological trends in historical and comparative perspective and discuss the relationship between EU level developments and attitudes within the Member States. An in-depth analysis of the elections then shows that the regional political crisis stems largely from a mismatch between tenacious national identities and political discourses, and EU level policies operating within an ever integrated, dysfunctional global economy.

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    Item Type: Conference Proceedings
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > political affairs > European elections/voting behavior
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Conference: European Union Studies Association (EUSA) > Biennial Conference > 2015 (14th), March 4-7, 2015
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 23 May 2017 17:51
    Number of Pages: 27
    Last Modified: 31 May 2017 13:12

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