Until a few months ago, this question would have seemed to be of mostly historical relevance. Yet, as we write these lines, one European state is waging a war of aggression on another European state. Civilians are paying a high toll in a conflict they wished would never happen, a conflict which started when the legitimacy of Ukraine’s democratically elected government was put into question by one of its neighbors, in manifest disregard of its right to self-determination.
The ongoing crisis reveals the deeply integrated character of the European and global political order at all levels of government. In the age of instant communication and information wars, Europe, and to some extent the world, is already a unified communicational space. Despite linguistic, cultural and ideological cleavages that were once claimed to be unbridgeable, local, regional and national political discussions are dominated by the almost tragic reality of Europe’s common destiny.
While war, rather than the “pursuit of politics by other means,” is the most brutal and unjust form of politics, voting and deliberation are its civilized forms. As we study European electoral dynamics, we are constantly reminded that the means of peaceful cohabitation exist; we learn how this cohabitation can be organized in practice, and where its stakes and fault lines lie; we learn about the instruments of peace and the evolution of present-day societies.
The war in Ukraine also reminds us that “democracy in one country” is, at best, illusory. State authoritarianism, especially its interventionist kind, poses a permanent threat to individual and collective autonomy. The lack of effective supranational checks and balances makes external aggression possible, while a state’s control over its own population drastically restricts citizens’ ability to shape their own destiny. As traditional international organizations seem disarmed, the spectacular emergence of the European Union, a legal and political community of states and citizens, as a global geopolitical player may be a sign of the times.
But let there be no mistake: despite deep interdependence between the different parts of the continent, including Russia, awareness of this interdependence is still largely underdeveloped. Mediating between levels of governement and regions, fostering a shared public space, building bridges between populations and political cultures, defending democracy against authoritarianism is not only possible, but more than ever necessary in the face of international violence, democratic imbalances and their gravest consequence: war. The task is immense, but peace demands that it be addressed.
As war rages in Europe, this is how we, at BLUE, understand the need to report on electoral dynamics. In this issue, you will find an unprecedented coverage of the French regional elections of June 2021, a series of analyses concerning the German “super electoral year” 2021, as well as a dozen other analyses of the main national, regional and local ballots of the past six months. Together, these analyses make for better understanding of the political conflicts that affect the daily life of Europeans, and help us identify the means of their peaceful resolution.
To cite the article
François Hublet, How to report about elections in a Europe at war?, Mar 2022, 3.
To read in this issueSee the whole issue
The Continental Review
Introduction The past electoral semester has been rich in new political developments both quantitatively, by the number of elections that have taken place, and qualitatively. In this issue, we will review these dynamics from a European perspective, whilst paying special attention to local and regional specificities.Following this Continental Review prepared for you by BLUE’s editors, … ContinuedRead the article
Regional election in Saxony-Anhalt, 6 June 2021
Introduction State elections are often interpreted as “mood tests” for the federal government, especially when they take place in the year of a federal election. In fact, many state elections turn out to be infused with federal politics (Burkhart 2005; Völkl 2009). This pattern could hardly have been more clearly contradicted by the Saxony-Anhalt state … ContinuedRead the article
Regional election in Île-de-France, 20-27 June 2021
In recent years, French regional elections have often been regarded as “mid-term elections” in which the President of the Republic and his party were put to the test. In 2021, this dimension of a ballot revealing the balance of political power is all the more clear as the French party system is confronted with a … ContinuedRead the article