The democratic deficit in the US should lead us to examine our own in Europe

The show must not go on! Both sides have already taken enough.

The US elections in the last four decades have become a talent show, where contestants try to mesmerize voters — with the rest of the world tagging along — with the illusion that their voices are heard and aspirations are adopted. Witness Obama’s Change or Trump’s MAGA campaigns. They illustrate a world in which policies and programs do not matter — rather, it is the show that matters. This can be related to the popular talent and reality TV shows that numbed our brains and made us addicted to the glamour and glitz, selling us a fake sense of progress and optimism.

For us in Europe, the US resembles an advanced example for where our political discourse is moving towards — a glimpse into the future that we can still alter, if only we act now.

Taking elections as one visible reflection, the 2020 vote in the United States appears to actively undermine voter participation in these elections. Systematic voter suppression in the United States — whether through mass purges of voter rolls, life-long disenfranchisement of ex-convicts, tactical gerrymandering or the electoral college system itself — is not entirely surprising. It may very well be that the envisioned democratic safeguards in the US constitution have become obsolete — and with constitutional amendments requiring 75% of States to agree, are unalterable.

With the United States ranking second-to-last for electoral integrity amongst liberal democracies, we need to turn our attention to expressions of democratic deficit within the European Union, chiefly:

  • The European Commission — an unelected body — having the sole authority to introduce legislation and thus exercise a monopoly over the legislative agenda of the European Union;
  • The over-representation of national executives within both the legislative and executive branches of governance at the European Union;
  • Significant gaps in transparency and public awareness of the rationale and mechanisms for making decisions by elected representatives and unelected officials of the European Union;
  • Poor reporting and oversight of lobbying activities that influence the legislative, judicial and executive functions of the European Union; and
  • The unchecked power of the European Central Bank (ECB), with accountability limited to prescribed discussions between the European Parliament and the ECB.

What can be done?

Such opaque levels of transparency — in an EU where power is centered around national ruling interests — means that integrity of the EU is often sacrificed for national political needs. This gives further ammunition to Nationalist forces that seek to see a demise of European solidarity.

DiEM25 is actively working on developing alternative governance mechanisms to address aforementioned democratic and transparency deficits in the EU. This problem cannot be solved in a blink of an eye. It is the continuous engagement of citizens in political discourse and their sustained pressure to retain the public civic sphere back from illusive binary electoral politics.

Join us to embolden the role of citizenry in fighting for a more direct representation on the European level!

This article has been authored by Mohammad Khair Nahhas, Amir Kiyaei and Robert Wittkuhn, who are members of the Peace and International Policy DSC.

Photo Source: Element5 Digital from Pexels.

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