One thing that I have asked myself in these last days during the debacle over instating, or not instating, Mr Juncker as the next European Commission chairman is how this will affect the branding of the European Parliament and subsequently future voting.
As a side note, if it had been me I would have bowed out of the process now. But then again I haven’t grown the rhinoceros hide necessary for high political life.
There are two obvious possible scenarios right now:
Mr. Juncker is instated
Mr. Juncker isn’t instated
But whatever the outcome, what will this situation do for the branding of the EP, the voters will to vote in future elections and the legitimacy with the EP?
Before the elections the EP had dug themselves into the stance that “this time it’s different” when in fact there is no discernible difference whatsoever. It is true that the Treaty of Lisbon says that the election results should be taken into account and that the EP could identify so-called Spitzenkandidaten. Only no one of the Treaty Fathers bothered to define exactly “taking into account” means. Added to this the main candidates where national only since there is no such thing as pan-European parties. ”Taking into account” could mean that the European Council automatically instate the person the EP has identified as their preferred choice, which is how the EP defines it as. Or it could mean that the Council acknowledges the EP’s choice and then goes on to identify a completely different candidate. A possibility the Council has an open door to. However, there is a certain ping-pong feeling about this process since the EP has to approve the candidate proposed by the European Council i.e. in the case of Mr. Juncker the EP has to approve their own candidate.
But to claim that Europe’s voters have spoken and want Mr. Juncker is a very difficult argument intellectually. The argument is actually more emotional and thus difficult to defend oneself against, but numerically it does not hold all the way.
Voter turnout in the parliamentary elections went up with ten percent, 43.00 to 43.09 between 2009 and 2014. At about 400 million eligible voters one tenth equals about 400 000 more voters. This corresponds to about the number of voters in Sweden who chose to vote (if we take into account that the number of eligible voters increased from 2009).
This turnout is likely not getting higher if the EP doesn’t manage this situation properly.
But to go back to the initial question. Exactly what arguments will be possible to use in a situation that easily can be turned around to a message that the voters’ will is not taken into account? And just to complicate matters it can equally be claimed that even if the Council comes up with another candidate it takes the voters’ will into account, since the Council consists of the elected Heads of State of the Member States and these were elected in free, open and democratic elections and that the Treaty of Lisbon doesn’t say that the election results automatically instate the EP preferred candidate as the EC chair.
Now it’s getting fun, isn’t it? Everybody is listening to everybody and all claims no one is listening.
The main issue, which have nothing to do with branding, is really what “taking into account” means and how to identify this sentence.
Having this debate now, after the election is to turn us voters into losers, however this debate ends … branding or not. Or maybe this is the branding we are left with? A situation, that at least I would be very sorry for.