I’m not an expert on the minutiae of European politics – for more in-depth analysis of the elections I’d recommend proper Euroblogs like Julien Frisch, The European Citizen, Nosemonkey and Grahnlaw – but there’s one “layman’s” observation I would make.
Low turnouts and the success of a number of unsavoury fringe parties (as well as the failure of the centre-left to make up ground on the centre-right despite the financial crisis “gift”) is likely going to be blamed in some smug quarters on a cynical media and stupid and/or gullible voters. Or if not that, on the fact that voters have become too individualistic to care about serious politics and wider community matters.
But what about the failure of many mainstream parties – especially those on the centre-left – to offer voters a real sense that they offer a helping hand in trying times? I think that’s far more critical. Sure, the media may be a tad cynical, but have entire electorates suddenly gone dim-witted? Hardly. Have we all turned into materialistic egomaniacs? Maybe, but I doubt charity donations would be at an all time high if that were so. Perhaps it’s fair to say that it’s not an easy time to be a political party. People don’t vote along party lines like they used to (largely because social class does not matter much anymore in political terms) while there aren’t that many issues on which parties can really stand out seeing as they all pretty much straddle the middle ground.
Nonetheless, it’s certainly the case that plenty of Europeans feel utterly estranged from political parties . What should they do about it? For a start, try to be more representative and not appear so detached; be less dismissive and most of all to be more communicative. It means surveying constituents and acting on results. And as an advocate for all things online, I’d say more than anything it means members of parties communicating online directly with their constituents and making it an absolute priority to engage in daily dialogue even if it takes up a sizable chunk of working hours.
And if that fails? More proportional representation and direct democracy perhaps, but that opens up a whole new kettle of fish.