11 Apr 2014

The ‘Personalisation’ of the European Elections: A half-hearted attempt to increase turnout and democratic legitimacy?

Sonia Piedrafita / Vilde Renman

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On May 22nd to the 25th, elections to the European Parliament are taking place throughout the European Union. Following a recent EP initiative, most of the European political parties have selected top candidates for the position of Commission President, who are to lead an EU-wide campaign, with the objective of increasing citizens’ interest in the elections and reinforcing their European dimension. This paper analyses the main weaknesses in the process of selecting the lead candidates and how they are approaching the campaign. In addition to the challenges posed by a cross-national campaign, the lack of a clear political programme and the possibility that none of the candidates will become the President of the next Commission might all limit the impact of this new initiative on voter turnout and undermine EU democratic legitimacy. The mainstream parties might also fail to counter the rise of radical eurosceptic parties, which so far are proving more successful in mobilising the protest vote in the wake of the euro crisis. 

Sonia Piedrafita is Research Fellow and Vilde Renman is a Research Assistant in the Politics and Institutions programme at CEPS.