by Sven Triloqvist
Wed Mar 4th, 2009 at 05:59:21 AM EST
There is a structural problem with EP elections, stemming from the need for candidates to have national visibility. There is no 'local' element in EP elections.
A nationwide campaign is a lot more expensive than a local one. In Finland, the average for a national election candidate campaign is around 45000. For the EU elections. it's around 100.000.
To save money you need candidates with built-in visibility. In selecting candidates, the parties will tend to either go with failed national politicians or celebrities - gossip or sports.
From the diaries with a small edit. How are European Parliament candidates selected in your country?
Part of our ongoing coverage of the 2009 European elections.
As a reminder: we'd like contributions from as many countries as possible, and on as many topics as possible!
Finland currently has 2 failed ex-PMs, a handful of political deadbeats and a couple of political oddballs. Becoming an MEP is seen by political operators as a consolation prize or sinecure. Or indeed the EU may be seen as a large carpet to sweep political dirt under.
See NordicStorm's excellent diary for more on the Finnish and international MEP scene: Minority MEPs?
But the most worrying trend is the pressganging of celebrities with nothing to celebrate, who have the required nationwide visibility, but rarely a clue about politics. It is more like jury service. Cost-efficient these celebrities may be, but useful? Even my name has been mentioned, so the barrel is being scraped. Talk about pigeon among the cats...
The former MEP Alexander Stubb, (National Coalition Party), now Finland's Foreign Minister, is one of the few Finnish candidates to sink himself whole-heartedly into the EU process and obviously saw it as a career move at a time when the Nat. Coalition Party couldn't offer him the kind of advancement he wanted.
An ex-PM of Finland, Anneli Jäteenmäki, who was forced to resign for spying on the President, is apparently still wandering around Brussels making no contribution at all - either because she is language-challenged or is using the 'well-paid holiday' in Brussels to plot her comeback in Finland. This disgraced lawyer has enough supporters in up north in reindeer territory to still make political waves.
There is a second structural problem: in order to get EU funding within parliament, and be guaranteed seats on committees, you need to join a group that has at least 20 MEPS from 6 different countries (Rising to 25 this year). There are currently 7 of these different groups (and a few independents). Classifying the myriad national European political parties in just 7 groups makes for some odd bedfellows in these groups.
Here are the current groups:
EPP-ED 284 European People's Party-European Democrats
PES 215 Party of European Socialists
ALDE 103 Allance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
UEN 44 Union of Europe for the Nations
G-EFA 42 European Greens - European Free Alliance
GUE-NGL 41 European United Left-Nordic Green Left
ID 24 Independence/Democracy Group
Another small wrinkle is that the MEPS from the same country sit in Parliament with their MEP group, not with fellow countrypersons. A good thing imo, but something else to have the electorate scratching their heads. The EU is still seen by the majority of voters as somehow being a representation of national interests, and that is why the MEP votes tend to be mid-term punishment of national parties rather than a vote for a political point of view.
This is one of the great challenges that the EU Parliament faces - to move away from national interest toward European interests. I think very few voters really understand that the EU is about redistribution - the rich helping the poor so we can really talk about one Europe - as well as all the worthy goals of protecting citizens by such things as standardization, free movement etc.
I realize I'll be challenged on this, but in my view the EU is built to be inherently socialist ;-)