A few weeks ago we had a written assignment to pass, which I found quite challenging. It was challenging because we were required to express and present so much in less than 1000 words. I wanted to share my assignment here on my blog, because I believe that it can be of use to inquiring minds and I also believe that it presents a new way of considering democratic participation when looking at politics.
Here was our task:
"How could you explain that, although the European Union has been continously extending its fields of competence and the European Parliament has been gaining more powers, turn out in the elections for the European Parliament seems to have steadily declined? What do you think could be done to increase the participation of the citizens in the democratic life of the EU?
The essay should demonstrate a strong understanding of the materials provided in the lecture and the interactions between the different "players of the EU game". Please note that defining democratic participation may be not only a useful but an essential part of answering this question.
Please adhere to a 500 - 1.000 words range, neither exceeding the maximum word count nor failing to meet the minimum."
Below is my undertaking:
Today, we face a paradox: though the European Union is esteemed to be improving through a growing number of competences and a creeping reach of influence and power; the popularity amongst its people seems to be dwindling and this is reflected in the turnout of the European Parliament elections. In this year's May Elections, for instance, the centre-right European People's Party won the most seats but came up well short of a majority. In Denmark, France, and Great Britain, rightist groups opposed to the European Union won unprecedented victories. Elsewhere, populist parties won significant seats. In total, roughly a quarter of all seats went to parties skeptical of the EU or protest parties. Thus, the election was seen as anti-establishment. In France, the Front National Party has beaten both the mainstream parties in this election, capturing 26 per cent of the vote share. William R. Schonfeld has an incredibly interesting take on this which can be found in his book, The Meaning of Democratic Participation. Says Schonfeld, "The work of some political scientists is consonant with the assumption that 'asymmetry' is a fact of organizational life. That is to say, within social and political units, 'abilities to produce intended effects and derive benefits are unequally distributed; ... someone affects more than he is affected, controls more than he is controlled and/or gets more than what is allocated.' Democracy is a type of hierarchical relationship which mutes and reduces asymmetry through participation. Other work explicitly argues that symmetry is possible or at least might be approached. While asymmetry may be modal in practice, examples of "real democracy" do exist and should serve as models for emulation." Reading this, the questions that I am led to tackle, are:
When I began writing this essay, I thought that I already had my answers in mind! I was going to say that I believe education— though a long-term method— is always the best way to encourage awareness of a cause or a cure— our particular "cause/cure" being a more involved turnout at the European Parliament elections and a more favourable opinion of the EU in general. I am the farthest thing from a "Eurosceptic" and in fact, I look to the EU as the loving hands that descend to care and protect its people to a degree that other nations can only dream of! So I was going to suggest the education of the young ones in school and the education of European society as a whole, as the best means of producing a more active awareness and desire in the people to make an influence for the betterment of the EU's efforts and reach. But after pondering upon what Schonfeld wrote, I wonder if the true "democratic participation" is in fact the active choice to do or not to do as one is led to believe should be done! If so, then I, friend of freedom, have nothing more to say.