People always complain that voters confuse local / regional / national issues with European issues. Hence, the disastrous result for the PES Party of European Socialists, as Martin Schulz (President) testified last night in a press conference. The loss of 40 – 50 EP seats for the Socialist polical group was, he said, due to citizens in some countries voting on domestic, rather than European issues.
In Belgium, what is frustrating is the ease with which politicians stand as No. 1 and No. 2 on the European lists, as well as No1 or No 2 on the list for the Regional elections.
Hedging their bets in such a way makes it:
a) disappointing for the voter, who in choosing a particular candidate and personality they might have a bit of confidence and trust in, is disillusioned when A.N. Other, unknown and possibly less qualified person, takes up their seat in the Parliament on their behalf
b) difficult to separate out the national issues from the European issues, the latter on which we are advised to be making our choices. The campaigns have resolutely been dominated by regional issues on media and the designated billboards. If you can’t make out the Europeans from the regionals (“the wood from the trees”, as it were), should the European elections be held separately from other elections ?
c) akin to saying ‘yes’ to a job offer, and then proposing a substitute replacement (like, your mate, your cousin, or your offspring) when you struck a better deal elsewhere. Would this be acceptable in a real career situation?
Here are some examples. Taking bets now on whether they will take up their seat in the EP, or stick with regional / national politics in Belgium….
Louis Michel (MR). Was Belgian Commissioner. No. 1 on MR European list.
Guy Verhofstadt (Open VLD). Not active on the Belgian scene for the past year, though wrote a book or two. No. 1 on Open VLD European list and No. 16 substitute for Vlaams Parlement representing East Flanders. Likely that the EP would be too small for his ambitions.
Jean-Marie Dedecker (LDD). No. 1 on Lijst Dedecker European list. also No. 1 for Vlaams Parlement list, representing West Flanders constituency. Guaranteed to send his sub Derk Jan Eppink in his place (interviewed on this blog).
Isabelle Durant (Ecolo). No. 1 Ecolo European list. Also No. 16 substitute for Bruxelles-Capitale regional parliament. Co-president of Ecolo party along with Jean-Michel Javaux. With the success of Ecolo in the Regional elections, and a gain of 1 more seat at the EP, how likely is it that Ms. Durant will accept MEP status?
Jean Claude Marcourt (PS). Presently Minister of Finance and Employment for region of Wallonia. No. 1 on the PS European list. Not on any regional list, though it’s pretty much guaranteed he won’t give up his day job.
Anne Delvaux (CDH). No. 1 on CDH European list and simultaneously No. 2 on Wallon Parliament list for the constituency of Nivelles. Presently a Senator at Belgian’s federal parliament. Will she / won’t she go to the EP ?
Kathleen Van Brempt (SP.A.). No. 1 on SP.A. European list, and also No. 33 for Vlaams Parlement list representing Antwerp constituency.
Frank Vanhecke (Vlaams Belang). No. 1 on VB European list, as well as No. 1 for Vlaams Parlement representing West Flanders.
Did you give your vote of confidence to any of these persons ?
If so, you might be disappointed that they won’t be your MEP…after all, it’s not easy – even for political leaders – to be physically in two places at once.