By Loucas Charalambous
THE DILEMMA troubling a large number of citizens (perhaps the majority if opinion polls are anything to go by) is whether they should vote or not in today’s elections for the European parliament.
The bankruptcy of the political system, which has become evident to everyone after we were led to the bankruptcy of the country, is the cause of this dilemma. The fact that in all opinion polls the percentage of those who said they would not vote was higher than the percentage of the most popular party is an indication of the public’s anger and disappointment.
If we also factor in the astonishing extent of those refusing to respond to pollsters (reportedly 50 per cent of people contacted), we can conclude that the forecast of a 40 per cent abstention from today’s vote is not excessive. This is not surprising if we take into account recent opinion polls that showed that 90 per cent of people do not trust political parties and politicians.
The intention of a large section of the electorate to ignore today’s elections has sparked considerable debate. On the one side, there are those who believe that not voting ‘punishes’ the politicians, shows the low regard in which they are held, highlights public anger over their actions and sends the ‘message’ that they should leave.
On the other side, consisting of the parties and the politicians, it is argued that abstaining from voting achieves nothing as some people will still vote and decide the outcome on behalf of everyone.
Analysing these arguments, it is obvious that both make sense. It is true that not voting will have no substantial result other than conveying the ‘message’ to politicians that they are not trusted by the voters. But it is also true that participation in the electoral process constitutes complicity in the continuation of a game played on terms set by the politicians. This is a big dilemma which makes for difficult decisions.
I have personal experience of this conundrum and it has troubled me many times over the last 20 years, and I have swung both ways. In truth, I have faced it every election. In some cases, the 2011 parliamentary elections for example, I felt quite happy that I did not bother voting.
I believed that by refusing to participate, I was avoiding being complicit in the double bankruptcy the politicians had led the country to. Apart from the political bankruptcy in their handling of the national problem which has become a permanent feature of our life, there was also the bankruptcy of the economy.
For today’s election I have chosen the opposite approach. Accepting that whatever you decide is wrong, I have chosen to participate this time and vote for candidates that are not tarnished by the past. On some tickets there are high calibre candidates whose record so far makes them stand apart from the rest, because they were not among those who took the decisions that dragged the country down into the abyss.
And if they were part of the political system, on issues of importance they were not afraid to express their disagreement. Perhaps backing such candidates will also send a powerful message, one that is perhaps more powerful than not voting.