The Progressive Post

Reality’s new clothes


The Portuguese view of Europe is split. First, for the majority of Portuguese non-voters, Europe is remote and responsible for the current situation in Portugal. Secondly, Portuguese voters’ feelings were mixed. They felt that Europe’s importance lay in solving Europe-wide problems, such as unemployment, lack of growth and a still somewhat toxic financial system. But, in the European elections, they voted from a national perspective, for the parties that would best form the next Portuguese government and only then for the ones that would best represent their concerns at the European level.

Protest at the only option

However, viewed from the perspective of Portugal, other conclusions can be drawn from the European elections. Like in the story of the “Emperor’s New Clothes”, they told us that all political parties and the system of power—whatever we may mean by this term—will eventually have to face up to reality.

Reality wears no clothes in Europe, and nowhere is this truer than in Portugal, since in 2014, the majority of potential voters lost confidence in the Portuguese system of power. More importantly, these potential voters are not willing to give the benefit of the doubt and to trust any idea, any person or any party. They see protest as their only option, which they do by voting for the Earth Party (MPT) for example, by not voting, or by casting blank or informal votes.

Everyone is held guilty

Ordinarily, the negative perception of a party’s actions would tend to affect votes for that party alone. However, what seems to be happening today is that voters are tarring all parties with the same brush for the failings of any politician whatever the party he or she may belong to. Voters are tending to see all parties as acting the same, irrespective of any differences in their ideas or of whichever public figure is the target for criticism.

What might surprise is why this is happening at this precise historical moment in our democracy. In fact, what is happening is collateral damage from the external intervention of the troika: the system of power is being eroded faster and that is affecting all political parties.

Citizens are tired of being disillusioned, of believing in something only to discover later that it was a lie. It is this reality, which has been staring us all in the face, that is the root cause of the contempt with which politicians and political parties are held—unfairly in many cases, but fairly in others.

No more faith in the system

A lack of trust in others is a characteristic trait of Portuguese society. The data from the World Values Survey about interpersonal trust shows that the Portuguese have the lowest level of trust in others.

This lack of trust in others creates a barrier to forming associations, to entrepreneurship, but also to participating in the political process and to trusting in political parties and politicians.

Those who do vote are in the minority, but they send a similar message saying that the system of power no longer reflects reality and is incapable of cultivating empathy and trust. Perhaps we could introduce some major change, such as change the voting system in national elections, providing voters with the possibility of a vote of confidence for pro-citizen parties. This could be achieved by introducing multiple, single-member constituencies where it is possible for voters to really choose the person they want to have their vote. Such a change would not merely be for the sake of change: it is a last chance for us all. If things continue the way they have been, political parties will fight to resist elections and not to win them.

Find all related publications

A New Global Deal

Reforming world governance

The transformation of the mainstream right and its impact on (social) democracy


Expected labour market effects of the Green Deal Industrial Plan

The potential of labour policy for Just Transition regions

Labour migration in the Western Balkans

Balkan Focus series
Find all related news

FEPS welcomes the signing of the La Hulpe Declaration


FEPS supports the declaration of Portimão calling for affordable housing in the EU

Affordable housing needs Europe, Europe needs affordable housing

FEPS stands with Zita Gurmai against persecution from Orban regime


Interview with Maria João Rodrigues on the need for EU treaty changes with Euronews

Find all related in the media
In the media

Karl Polanyi against the ‘free market’ dystopia

by Social Europe 23/04/2024
In this article published in Social Europe, FEPS Secretary General László Andor reassess the Hungarian social scientist’s legacy.

Jetzt oder nie: Österreichs digitales Schicksal entscheidet sich (auch) im Klassenzimmer!

by Börse Express 14/04/2024
'Now or never: Austria's digital fate will (also) be decided in the classroom!' Börse Express's article mentions FEPS policy brief 'Europe needs high-tech talent'

EU-VÍZIÓ, Dull Szabolcs újságíró Andor Lászlóval beszélget

by MÚOSZ Magyar Újságírók Országos Szövetsége 11/04/2024
On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the EU great Eastern enlargement, FEPS Secretary General László Andor talks, in this video interview to the Hungarian Journalists' Association, the functioning of the Commission and its further development.

Sustainable democracies need a sustainable media sector, says Jourová

by EURACTIV 02/04/2024
FEPS President Maria João Rodrigues discusses AI and journalism at Stars4Media event