State power is rising as governments scramble to stop the global financial crisis, so why are Europeans so indifferent to who runs the European state? Just 34 percent of citizens plan to vote in European parliamentary elections this month, down from the previous record low of 45 percent in 2004. The weak turnout is expected to benefit fringe parties, with their passionate backers most likely to vote. That includes Britain's Greens and anticapitalist parties like Germany's Left Party and France's New Anti-Capitalists.
On the right, it includes parties thoroughly hostile to Europe. The British National Party is blitzing the U.K. with ads blaming economic conditions on immigrants from new EU member states like Poland. The U.K. Independence Party, a fierce advocate of Britain's withdrawal from the EU, is dominating online and social media, garnering nearly 30 percent of British visitors. However, while landing even one or two seats in Brussels is a major accomplishment for a minor party, projections show only marginal overall gains in the massive 736-member Parliament. Extreme-right and anti-Europe groups are predicted to take only three additional places over the 41 they now hold. But analysts admit unprecedented low turnout could drive their numbers higher. This clashes with trends in European national elections, which have seen higher turnouts and strong gains for mainstream conservative parties since the crisis began. So while Europeans are more likely to gamble with their vote in the EU, they tend to stick with the familiar on pressing issues at home. All politics is local, indeed.