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European progressives make the fight against voting abstention a 2015 priority

The PES Working Group on Fighting Voting Abstention had its first meeting on February 4 in Brussels. Last week, the Presidency of the Party of European Socialists decided in its work plan to establish a working group with the aim to explore and define guidelines on how to fight voting abstention and revitalize the European democracy.

PES Deputy Secretary General Marije Laffeber stated: “Voting is not only a basic right but also a civic responsibility. We need to face the problem of voting abstention as a major political challenge and as a grave democratic deficit. Turnout in the European Parliament elections has fallen steadily from 62% in 1979 to 42.5% in 2014, and in Slovakia the turnout reach an all-time low with 13 percent”.

The new working group is chaired by Raymond Johansen, Secretary General of the Norwegian Labour Party. Mr. Johansen expressed his enthusiasm that PES highlights this democratic challenge, underlining that; “this historic low turnout demands concrete actions from our side. It must be as easy as possible for the citizens of Europe to take part in the democracy and to use their right to vote. Therefore, we must take concrete actions to revitalize the European democracy. Today the voting rights and system varies greatly from country to country. We must extend the possibility to vote, simplify the action of voting and make sure that people can take part more easily in the democracy”.

In their first meeting, the group focused on compulsory voting and early voting with experiences from Belgium, Sweden, Slovakia and Italy.  Next meeting will be held on April 24.

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