It is voting day, all Ireland is heading for the local polling station, open from 7 AM to 10 PM, casting first a cold eye on the ballot paper, second a vote for whoever should sit in the local council or a cushy seat “in Europe”. Local elections, European elections, by-elections in some constituencies. I have my polling card, I have my ID, I have enough election literature that was pushed through the letterbox to keep me warm throughout next winter.
And I am not going to vote.
Not because I am generally p***ed off with politicians (I am). Not because I do believe that democracy is overrated (at times, though, the thought comes up). Not because there is no choice (there is, but … see below). Not because I am consciously living “off the grid” (Who’d notice anyway?). No. I am not going to vote and therewith I am expressing my most honest opinion.
Can abstaining be an opinion?
In my book it can. As much as spoiling a ballot paper. You simply express your opinion that there is nothing worth voting for. That there is nobody who actually deserves your vote. Which is an expression of trust. And do I trust politicians? On a human level, yeah, some seem to be decent guys and gals. But when it comes to “representing” me, the story is different.
Taking the odd test how I should vote, mainly through German and Austrian websites, painted a rather funny picture in my case … the selection of parties I had to make an informed choice about at the end was always narrowed down to something like “the Neo-Fascists, the Far Left and the Loony Fringe”. Mainstream politics did not feature at all. Go figure – I must be a loony lefty rightwinger … or somebody who simply cannot be pressed into, and identified by, the party line. A free thinker. A mercurial spirit. A party of one. In short … a loony.
But seriously – parties? Fine Gael and Fianna Fail seem to be interchangeable at times, Labour is “left” only in name, Sinn Fein has no real programme further than “Ireland first, then we’ll see”, the Greens are discredited, the fringe parties so fringe even I would not vote for them. And then there are the candidates themselves. One is making hay by using his grandfather’s nickname (only in Ireland, I guess, where you can also wear your grandfather’s medals on your uniform), one is so fundamentalist Christian the pope would be rolling his eyes, one is a stoner.
Taking the stoner … Ming might be a bit of fun and a decent character to boot, but his turf war is not mine and a vote for him would be like throwing a spanner into the works. Which might be fun. Until somebody loses an eye. So, is sending the guy to Europe a good move? No way: he was a positive force in the local council (mainly because his causes are mainly local), he already is seriously out of his depth in the Dail and as to playing in the European league … as I said, spanner, works. Do not expect any results except machinery grinding to a halt or, more likely, the tool down to fine dust.
So, even voting for one of the more promising independent candidates would not be a serious move. It would be a vote for fun. Or for the “lesser evil”. And I cannot bring myself to do that. A “protest vote” then? I’d only do that if I saw a decent chance of this vote actually counting and making a difference. As I have done in the olden days, in another country. Here, today … I fail to see the real protest beyond the posturing.
So, no trek to the polling station for me today.
A waste? Don’t think so, they’ll get by without me showing up. Maybe next time.
And yes, I know, I can’t really complain about the outcome of the election afterwards. Which leads me to the question – do I really care? The European decisions are made, bethankit, mainly by the real players. And as to the local level … it’ll more than likely be same old, same old, with minor variations, but no major change in policies. Potholes will still need filling. Whether the shovel is approved by Sinn Fein, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail or a rainbow coalition of independents.