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Seven Shades of Democracy: The 2024 European Parliament Elections

Alex Coiov, XII A


The year 2024 marks an unequivocally momentous period for the world’s growing democracy, with more than 3.5 billion people worldwide awaiting to exercise their fundamental civil rights at the ballot box by choosing their desired political representatives. From the world’s largest democratic republic of India or the globe’s greatest economic behemoth of the United States to our diverse EU community or our quaint Eastern European nation, political elections will, within the upcoming months, constitute an indelible aspect of our lives, impacting all the inhabitants of the world’s global village and, indeed, us European Union citizens.

 

All democratic countries enjoy free elections, obviously, hence why they are democratic. Labelling the occurrence of democratic elections in any particular liberal nation as extraordinary or unusual would perhaps be misguided, as the seamless transfer of power among political groupings ought to be viewed as a commonplace, basic necessity, not some outstanding event or a benevolent gift from the government. It is nothing special that billions of people worldwide are gearing up to participate in this democratic ritual.



But, what if somebody were to tell you that not only nations have elections? In this uber-globalised world, wherein geographical, cultural, and linguistic borders are deftly transcended by the unfettered flow of capital, avant-garde information, and revolutionary ideas, elections extend beyond mere national territories, beyond nation-states. Elections now span entire transnational alliances, amongst which the European Union stands as a prominent example.

 

Since its inception in 1993, previously established via the Treaty of Maastricht, the European Union soon became a prodigious symbol of unity, power, and prosperity. It is now its citizenry’s responsibility to uphold the fundamentals upon which the Union was adeptly constructed by actively engaging in its democratic process, in its 2024 European Parliament Elections.

 

With almost four months to go until the EP polling booths open, the anticipation is palpable. Whilst the European Union boasts an intricate institutional framework including several prominent bodies – among which the European Commission (the executive branch implementing EU laws), the European Central Bank (responsible for managing the Euro Area’s shared monetary policy and common currency, the Euro), and the European Council (which represents the member states’ governments) – the European Parliament stands out as the only directly elected political body within the Union, hence why the EP elections are all the more crucial. Indeed, they constitute a prime opportunity for the European electorate to convey its unabated political will by choosing which EU political parties will represent and act on behalf of the Union for the next five years.



The choice is complicated, the stakes are high, and the options are precisely seven. On the far left, ‘The Left’ endorses inclusive and uber-progressive policymaking regarding social issues such as feminism, immigration, alongside gender identity and equality, its economic beliefs aligning with a strong and generous government advocating for wealth redistribution, progressive taxation, and social safety nets. Closer to the centre-left, ‘The Greens’ espouse eco-friendly policies meant to diminish CO2 emissions, uphold animal rights, and promote sustainability, the proactive state representing a critical factor in ensuring environmental conservation (via proactive taxation and subsidies) and the protection of human rights. And finally, the conventional centre-left ‘Social Democrats’ (S&D, the second biggest EU political party after the centre-right EPP) stand for all the aforementioned causes of The Greens and The Left, but they typically take a more moderate and pragmatic approach, being more willing to compromise as to reach a consensus.

Straight down the middle, the centrist ‘Renew’ (currently in a coalition with the EPP and S&D and thus contributing towards EU policymaking) is founded on the principles of liberty and individuality, its socio-economic philosophy supporting freedom both on a micro (human rights and individual autonomy) and a macro scale (government needs to be small and fiscally prudent since all its lavish interventions ultimately culminate in inefficiencies and resource misallocations). The centre-right, liberal-conservative ‘European People’s Party’ (EPP, currently the most popular political grouping) is a pro-European, pro-business, and pro-reform party that upholds free-market principles, cultural and national identity, and freedom in all senses, its economic doctrine leaning towards fiscal conservatism and market-oriented policies. Ultimately, the right-wing ‘Identity and Democracy’ (ID) and ‘European Conservatives and Reformists’ (ECR) groupings have gained tremendous popularity since the last EP elections in 2019, their Euroscepticism, unbounded support for patriotism and tradition, social conservatism, distrust of EU institutions (usually perceived as inefficient and bureaucratic), alongside emphasis on national sovereignty and tightly controlled immigration having resonated with a significant portion of the EU electorate.


 

Ultimately, 2024 will be full of surprises and rife with uncertainties, be they the outcome of the Republicans-vs-Democrats competition in the US general elections, India heading to the polls in the largest democratic exercise on the globe, or, indeed, our own Romanian elections. The EP contest will be as cryptic and convoluted as any other, the pluralistic political landscape of the European Union constantly undergoing novel changes and erratic transformations. As the year unfolds and the ballots are counted, these uncertainties will slowly dissipate, but the final outcome will likely remain just as shocking. Taiwan has already chosen her president for the next four years. One checked; how many more to come?

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