In an interview with the Swedish Daily Dagens Industri, the Swedish Prime Minister Mr. Reinfeldt says (my translation) that “the voters are rational, they realize that the EU election is not (as) decisive for their everyday life and for the future.” He continues to say that there is a “tremendous difference” between national parliamentary elections and elections to the EP since the EP “has no influence on formation of government or influence” [?]
This is a remarkable statement from the leader of the country that is next in turn for the Presidency. The Czech Presidency was an unmitigated disaster. The statement by the Swedish Prime Minister makes us wonder if the Swedish one will be any better. And does he really believe that the EP “is not (as) decisive for [the voters' ] everyday life and for the future”? At best this is irresponsible, at worst it reflects a tremendous lack of understanding of how the EU works.
There are well founded fears that the participation rate will be very low even if political parties and to some extent media do their best to stimulate the interest in the forthcoming election. Dagens Nyheter , for instance, has several articles every day explaining the importance of the Parliament and of the EU in general and provides opportunites to chat with various experts. There has also been presentations of all the member countries. The interview with the Prime Minister is clearly counterproductive but has no found any echo in other Swedish media.
The attitudes towards the elections and towards the EU in general is rather confusing. On the right the leading conservative party takes a rather cautious attitude in order not to frighten Eurosceptic voters at home. Of their coalition partners the Center Party is anti-EU and the People’s Party strongly pro-EU and pro-Euro. But this party has taken some strange populistic initiatives in domestic policy which probably scares away a large number of voters. On the left the situation is even worse: The Social Democrats top their list with the unloved and anti-EU former Party Secretary, Ms. Ulvskog. There are many loyal Social Democratic voters who could never bring themselves to vote for a list with Ms. Ulvskog as the first name. Their hopeful coalition partners The Greens and the ex-communists have a very disturbed relation with Europe and the latter party still maintains its demand that Sweden should leave the EU (!).
It is nevertheless clear, and encouraging, that Swedish MEPs of all political colors, are much more active than their mother parties and frequently at odds with the policies and priorities of their home based organizations. Would this be a reason for the Prime Minister and other leaders to try to keep participation low?
The new and exciting site VoteWatch.eu produces a wealth of data and information about the voting behaviour of MEPs, by political parties, groupings and countries.