14 June 2004

Europeans vote

Over the weekend European citizens voted for the European Parliament (EP), the second largest exercise in democracy after India. However, local issues dominated in most countries, and turnout was lowest ever -- below even American levels at 44 percent. The conservative bloc of national parties did better than the social democratic bloc, as voters generally repudiated their governing parties. What is the significance of this? Not much, given that no government is formed from this parliamentary body, whose powers are limited. The European Commission is comparable to a domestic cabinet, with similar powers, but its members are appointed by the member states, now numbering 25. The EP, based in Strasbourg, now has 732 seats.

One surprise: the UK Independence Party, which advocates pulling Britain out of the EU altogether, did well, raising its total number of seats from 3 in 1999 to 12 in 2004. Eurosceptics gained elsewhere as well.

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