Tuesday 27th May 2014. 2 days since the ballot boxes for the European Elections were closed after 4 consecutive days of voting across the EU. I would say 2 days since the dust has settled from the results, but I sense that the dust is still a long way from reaching the ground. For me, stemming from the UK, UKIP’s victory struck a particularly strong chord, but as the results rolled in from France, Denmark, and the remaining countries where far-right gains were palpable, I realised this worrying gain was something that was affecting Europe as a unit.
If I am truly honest, I can’t say that I am all that surprised. Rhetoric in the UK has been particularly anti-EU for a while now and a referendum has been on the cards. Now, the main shock is that we are edging ever closer to the referendum becoming a reality. With the EU elections behind us, hurdle number 1 is down, hurdle number 2 (the general election in 2015) is fast approaching, and as the mood worsens, this is an ever-growing concern.
If these turnout figures show us anything, it’s apathy. While the UK didn’t have the lowest turnout (by far), a rate of between 20-30% is still nothing to shout from the rooftops about. In fact, this figure represents between 12.7 and 19.1 million people (based on 63.7 million people in the UK). This in turn suggests that a huge proportion of the population either simply did not care about the election, or didn’t want to/didn’t manage to register to vote. Then, of course, there are the people who withheld their vote out of protest. On the other hand, in the last general election 65.1% of people turned out to vote. Bearing these figures in mind, it could be argued that UKIP’s victory can simply be accounted to the fact that UKIP voters, angry at the EU, turned out in force to vote, dominating the polls and sending out shockwaves as the votes began to be counted.
Of course, even if this is an explanation, this victory shouldn’t be cast aside. Seeing this result mirrored across other member states only enforces the message that Europe isn’t happy. We are now entering a crucial stage, where reforms must be discussed. The EU is by no means perfect, but it also should not be allowed to collapse. The UK, in particular, now enters a turbulent time in the build up to the general election and the referendum on Scottish Independence. The mainstream political parties need to rebuild trust with the voting public, and the EU needs to rework itself to ensure its future. It would be a great shame to see the UK and Europe descend into crisis, for the Right to take a hold on national governments and for the intolerant to grasp at power.
(I do not own the rights to this image)