On 23-26 May, European Union (EU) citizens will be able to vote for the so-called European elections. But what are these elections? What is at stake? And more importantly, why does it matter?
About the elections
Every 5 years, since 1979, European elections take place all around Europe in order to elect 751 new deputies, representing the 27 countries of the EU. However, this year election’s circumstances turn out to be quite unusual. In fact, as the UK is brexiting the EU, the number of seats available has been reduced to 705 instead of 751. But here is the twist: the Brexit has been postponed- again- and the UK has until the day before the elections to make up its mind…it seems like they will have to vote after all.
Anyway, depending on the size of the country, the number of deputies to be chosen varies. In Belgium, 21 deputies are to be elected, whose 12 will be chosen by the Flemish community, 8 by the French Community and 1 by the German community.
8 main parties are represented in the European Parliament, among which you can find the European People’s Party (right and centre-right, CDH and CD&V in Belgium), the Socialist Party (centre-left, PS in Belgium), the European Conservatives and Reformists (Eurosceptic right), the European Green Party (Ecolo/Groen in Belgium), the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (centre-right, MR in Belgium), the Party of the European Left (centre-left) as well as other new parties, who are a minority.
What is at stake
The European Elections are really important, that is what everybody says…but why? The soon-to-be elected European deputies will be the ones making decisions that will impact our future. Whether you live in Portugal, in Latvia or in Belgium, their decisions will affect us.
One of the issues at hand is the migratory pact, consisting of letting migrants enter the country and benefit from aid and access to basic services, such as healthcare. Moreover, aligned with the ideas of the countries who intend to sign the migratory pact, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claims that migrants can actually bring benefits to their communities and that immigration is the reason why Canada is such a strong country nowadays. On the other hand, the opponents of the migratory pact believe this will increase the already huge migration flow.
Another issue on the rise is climate change. Last year, the Green party rose and got more visibility. This year, considering all the climate demonstrations going on worldwide, everyone is aware of the environmental situation and more and more people start to care. Green parties are thus likely to gain popularity this year. Nevertheless, the possibility of voting for other parties should not be excluded. Although you might deeply care for the environment, you might also care about other issues, hence the reason why it is extremely important to be well-informed on each party’s ideology and not rush when it comes to voting. Many other issues are at stake for the EU elections, such as terrorism, the economic situation (dealing with unemployment, whether the euro should be maintained or not), sustainable development, gender equality and food sovereignty (right of people to define their own food and agriculture policies).
Why it matters
Still wondering why you are reading this article? Voting is not that difficult: you just have to get up and got to the polls on election day. Is that enough to claim yourself a good citizen? Actually, voting in itself is not an easy task, yet we are all obliged to do so in Belgium. Some may consider it as a chore, some may not. Some people may think they have better things to do than voting, that it is a waste of time, that their vote will not affect the final outcome, but what if they were wrong? It is primordial for every citizen to seize the importance of voting consciously, meaning that you know who you are voting for and more importantly, why. Have you chosen the party that defends your ideas the best they possibly can? Does your vote align with your values and beliefs?
Your vote does have an impact on the final outcome, it does affect the future of the world we live in, hence the reason why voting while being priorly informed is essential. The stakes discussed are in constant evolution, your position can always be changed, your beliefs can evolve. There is no greater thing than go accomplish our citizen duty the right way. So, go look up some information, go to the polls, vote and contribute to the civil wellness. Elections are coming…