This year Latvia celebrated 15 years since it had joined the European Union back in 2004. While many experts and opinion-makers are still discussing whether Latvians feel the connection with Europe and have a solid understanding of the processes taking place in Brussels and their influence on Latvia, one thing is quite clear – Latvians do care about Europe’s future. More people took to the polling stations this year compared to the last European elections. Though the difference is only 3% (in 2014 the turnout was 30.24% and in 2019 the turnout is 33.6%), it generally mirrors the wider European increase in voter turnout.
In order to fully understand the European campaign’s setup in Latvia, one needs to remember that the European elections this year came only 7 months after general elections.
The European Parliament elections were held just a month after Finland had elected its national Parliament. The national vote set the frame for the EP campaigns.
European elections so close after national ones meant that campaigning posed a challenge to parties and candidates alike, as voters suffered from a slight election fatigue and media focused much more on the negotiations over a new government. The European campaigns were somewhat affected by a lack of enthusiasm.
In Slovakia, the European Parliament elections were always considered as peripheric in terms of both the interest of the citizens and the fact that they barely ever brought a surprising change. Thus, it is only fair to say that the European Parliament election that has taken place on the 25th May 2019 represents a dramatic departure from the past.
In 2014, Slovakia managed to set a historically low turnout for the European Parliament election at 13%. This turnout was a blunder that no politician in Slovakia wanted to see replicated. A big portion of the impetus came early last year, when a murder of a young journalist and his fiancée has led to massive protests and new political interest that has been most embodied by a coalition of two new parties.
After the results were published, several Czech political parties have proclaimed that they were happy with the results. Whether there was a reason for merriment is a fairly difficult question to answer.
In my opinion there was no clear winner. ANO, the party of prime minster Babiš did win most votes, but the 21 % ANO received is rather underwhelming (ANO polls around 30 % nowadays). As a member of ALDE, ANO possibly faces a domestic image problem if Macron’s party LREM takes a leading role in the European party family. Many voters of ANO do not endorse Macron’s agenda for deeper EU integration.
If ever there was any doubt that hard work and due diligence pays off, this doubt was dissipated during this European election in Poland. A party of Euro-skeptics, nationalists, ultra-conservatives wishing to relegate the position of women back to the Dark Ages; a party of homophobes, who gives neo-Nazis no more than a pat on the hand for hijacking otherwise peaceful parades during national holidays – this party has taken the European elections by storm despite record-high participation levels. Why? Because they put in the biggest, most inhumane amounts of effort and they believe in what they do.