Is political participation in Europe increasing, declining, or simply changing?
Over the years, the word of voter apathy, of people getting tired of politics, consistently has gone round in the media. It is argued that voter abstention proves that politics today is too complex, and too inflexible to find consensus on radical standpoints. In March 2003, however, we could witness the largest scale mass public demonstrations ever seen in many West European countries. In many capitals and major cities across Europe, millions of people went on the streets to demonstrate against the Iraq invasion. In face of these millions of politically concerned people, can the argument of political disinterest still stand?
In the following essay, I will first define the term political participation. Then, I will debate in what ways participation is indeed declining, but also in what ways it is increasing. In my conclusion, I will assert that people do not participate any less than they used to. Nowadays, they simply partake in the political process in many different ways.
Political participation is the active involvement of the people in the political process of decision-making. This is a fundamental principle of democracies. The free access to politically relevant information is necessary to allow people to be able to form and voice opinions on matters that applies to them.
The easiest way to politically participate is voting. It legitimises the representation of the people and therefore the whole political system. Logically, the more people vote, the closer the political institutions get to fully represent the whole population. Another type of this ‘institutional’ participation (i.e. performed within the scope of political institutions) is standing for an election, which is naturally the most intensive form of political participation.
Contrarily, there are extra-institutional forms of participation like membership in pressure groups (PG) o...