The European Parliament: Power, Responsiveness, Image, and Participation
So far we have been dealing with attitudes to the European Union in general. But the election is about the European Parliament. Does the public see this parliament as the toothless tiger of the critics or as an alert and powerful watchdog on which they can rely to ensure that EU decisions will be in their interests? The question of the perceived power of the European Parliament is crucial. As noted in Chapter 1, the defining characteristic of second-order elections is that there is 'less at stake'. But the reason there is less at stake is said to be because there is less power involved. Commenting on the second-order characteristics that are specific to the European Parliament, Reif and Schmitt point to 'the fact that the representative body which is elected has very little real power, even compared to other second-order elected bodies. Thus even less is at stake' ( Reif and Schmitt 1980: 12). This chapter focuses on how the power of the European Parliament is seen by the voters. This will prepare the ground for the analysis of what is at stake in these elections, an analysis that will be presented in Chapter 6. As well as analysing the perceived power of the European Parliament, the present chapter examines the perceived reliability of the Parliament and the affective images it evokes in the minds of the European public. To what extent does it evoke any image at all? If it is admired, what is it admired for? If disliked, why? The chapter will conclude with the now standard question: what is the relationship, if any, between the variables discussed in the chapter and turnout in the election?
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Publication information: Book title: People and Parliament in the European Union:Participation, Democracy, and Legitimacy. Contributors: Jean Blondel - Author, Richard Sinnott - Author, Palle Svensson - Author. Publisher: Clarendon Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 107.
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