Year Of The Vote!

Dubbed the “year of democracy,” 2024 will see 2 billion voters heading to the polls across over 60 countries.

With elections in the EU, the US, India, Russia, Mexico, Taiwan, South Africa, and almost certainly the UK, it would be understandable to think that the state of global democracy must be healthy and thriving. However, the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) instead labels the global state of democracy as ‘’complex, fluid and unequal’ as we enter into democracy’s biggest year.

The biggest players in geopolitics already have, or soon will elect new leaders, either promoting or destabilising global cooperation, on key issues such as health, conflict, security, trade and climate.

In the European Union, 400 million eligible voters will have the opportunity to exercise their democratic rights and choose their representatives in the European Parliament. In the process which only comes around once every five years, European citizens directly elect members of parliament who sit on equal footing with the Council of the EU to negotiate, agree and adopt the policies that shape the lives of Europeans on a daily basis.

Ringing in 2024 in many parts of the world was not an occasion for celebration. Putin’s Russia is still waging war in Ukraine, displacing millions of families and undermining the country’s recent democratic progress. Public pressure from Israelis for an election in 2024 to replace Netanyahu is mounting amid the ongoing bloodshed and chaos happening in the Middle East.

Domestically, the upcoming European Parliament election in June could see a shift to the right as Eurosceptic parties are predicted to gain ground, weakening the likelihood of a centre-orientated Parliament. The rise of nationalist parties across the bloc, as seen in recent elections, adds complexity to addressing thematic challenges such as Ukraine-Russia relations and migration. Economic struggles and competition in green and digital transitions pose additional challenges for EU cohesion.

In the US the American people have little opportunity for inspiration as the biggest political event of the year will most likely see Trump vs Biden once more in the 60th presidential election.

The potential re-election of Trump in the US presents further uncertainties and risks, including tensions in transatlantic relations and threats to NATO which he has openly and frequently criticised. He has made it quite clear that there are many democratic norms which he wants the US to have no part of. He would likely withdraw US support to Ukraine, and his threats of weakening NATO combined with his closeness to Putin have been said to undermine Washington’s national security.

Post-Brexit, the UK is navigating its global role, and so will be closely monitoring both the US and the EU elections. With Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives currently far behind in the polls, and an election expected before the end of 2024, Labour are poised to take over. A Labour-led government would steer the UK towards the left. A shift which contrasts with Europe, where far-right parties are gaining traction. This contrast in ideology may strain cooperation between the UK and the EU, affecting crucial issues like migration and trade. On climate, Labour is generally seen as having stronger stances, for example on oil and gas – Labour have pledged to stop new extraction where the current government has moved to increase licensing, and has recently cut back other climate plans. Labour has however withdrawn a climate spending commitment recently citing economic reasons.

While EU citizens cannot do anything about the two-horse race happening across the pond or about the challenges set to face a United Kingdom led by the Labour Party for the first time in thirteen years – we do have a say at home.

In June, voters across the EU’s 27 member states will vote to elect representatives to the European Parliament, the only directly elected institution in the EU. Despite its significance, voter turnout has historically been low due to perceptions of the EU’s distance from everyday life. However, this sentiment could not be further from the truth. This directly elected Parliament has been granted an increasing amount of legislative power over the years and now sits alongside the Council of the EU to formally adopt policy proposals from the Commission. These policies translate into green jobs, cyber security, health and safety standards, special areas of conservation and public transport investments. Policies which make up the likes of the European Green Deal aim to provide citizens with food security, clean air and water, liveable cities and economic growth and opportunities.

The upcoming reshuffle of European Union personnel is set to redefine EU politics: Traditionally, the European Parliament has championed progressive policies, often advocating for comprehensive, pan-European initiatives beyond what the Council proposes. Voters still can act to continue this positive trend, and block those parties who seek to weaken the European Parliament’s traditionally progressive and pro-European stance.

The EPP currently represents the largest of the Europarties, followed by the European Socialists, yet the party to watch this year is the far-right eurosceptic European Identity and Democracy group (ID). If the ID group surpasses the liberals in popularity this election year, it would tilt the parliament from the centre to the right.

Our votes will significantly influence the trajectory of Parliament’s policies and consequently shape EU politics for the next half-decade.

During last summer’s hotly debated Nature Restoration Law, a glimpse of what a right leaning leadership could look like emerged. Manfred Weber, leader of the EPP, was accused of playing dirty politics in order to water down and delay the law from being implemented. The EPP and Renew group have both made it clear that environmental issues will not be of top priority for the next law making period. The largest of the europarties is likely to champion the ‘economic deal’ rather than the ‘green deal’ with policies centred on business interests, deregulation, security and immigration.

This background could lead you to feel confused, uncertain and unprepared for what the next policy cycle might bring. But at POW we like to advocate for action over apathy. The climate crisis is multi-faceted and in itself is a call to action. Economic resilience and competitiveness will not be achieved without climate and humanitarian justice.

The European outdoor community is over 190 million people strong – almost the number of people who voted in the 2019 Parliament elections.Together our votes can make a difference, for our environment, for our climate, and for a better future for all.

Find out when and how to vote by following our EU Election Campaign across our European Chapters and here on the European Union’s page.

Take a look at our EU Election campaign for 2024 and add your organisations as a signatory today: vote.protectourwinters.eu

Images (c) M.Nachtschatt