And the winner is… abstention!
September 29th, 2009 by Eurosocialiste

German Christian-Democrats and Portuguese Socialists are happy. They won the elections. It is true that in terms of percentage of votes, they did much better than their competitors. However I can’t help but think that the real winner of these elections is abstention. And if abstention is the big winner, then it means that democracy is the big looser.

Turnout rate at Sunday’s German elections: 70.8% (source Euronews), the lowest since 1949 thus confirming the clear trend towards a decline of turnout rates since the 1970s, where they peaked at 90%.

Turnout rate evolution at the German general electins (source International IDEA)

Evolution of the turnout rate at the German general elections (source International IDEA)

Abstention rate at Sunday’s Portuguese elections: 40% (source Euronews), ” an abolute record for legislative elections since the accession of Portugal to democracy in 1974″, reminds touteleurope.fr

Turnout rate evolution at the Portuguese elections (source International IDEA)

Evolution of the turnout rate at the Portuguese elections (source International IDEA)

And the worst is that Germany and Portugal don’t have the exclusivity on this phenomenon. On the contrary, this is a pan-European trend, as shown by the steady decline in turnout rates at the European elections since the 1970s.

Evolution of turnout rates at the European elections (source: European Parliament)

Evolution of turnout rates at the European elections (source: European Parliament)

The roof is on fire. Less and less citizens use their voting right. The legitimacy of our democracies is based on elections. Will our democracies still be legitimate when less than 50% of citizens vote? Will we be waiting until we reach this point to react? Looking at the smile on the winners’ face of Sunday’s elections and last June’s European elections, I am afraid so.

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2 Responses  
  • Apfel writes:
    September 29th, 2009 at 23:29

    It is absolutely true that more and more voters in Germany don’t feel the necessity to (actively) participate in the elections – for whatever reason.
    However, what is quite noticable is that those Germans who you actually would not like to go and vote, are unfortunately those who do go and vote…
    Take a look at Eastern Germany – to say it in an extremely populist (and biased) way: These “Ossis” (Eastern Germans) are either commies (Die Linke, MLPD) or nazis (NPD, REP).

    And yes, those who did not really know what/for whom to vote but somehow still felt obliged to do so when for the PIRATES…

    Quo vadis, Germania?

    A “Wessi”
    (who’s living abroad and actually made the “effort” of voting by mail – what fabulous achievement!)

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