The territorial dimension of anti-EU-voting in East-Central European countries

TitleThe territorial dimension of anti-EU-voting in East-Central European countries
Publication TypeKonferencia kiadvány / Conference Paper
Év / Year2019
AuthorsDieringer, Jürgen
Konferencia neve / Conference NameEuropean Elections 2019 - Renewing the Political Agenda for a United Europe
Kiadó / PublisherHungarian Europe Society

There is no doubt anymore that European integration affects national elections in EU member states (de Vries 2007). Modes and shapes of influence may, however, differ from country to country. This essay draws on the combination – or merger – of a new transnational cleavage with the Lipset/Rokkanian territorial cleavages “urban vs. rural” and “center vs. periphery”. The focus is on anti-EU-voting in Eastern- and Central European (ECE) countries, especially in Poland and Hungary.

Research detected the emergence of a transnational cleavage in Western societies, manifested in a pro/contra stance on European integration (Hooghe/Marks 2018). In this body of literature, the transnational dividing line partly replaces or at least alternates the traditional four cleavages of Lipset/Rokkan (1967). In my opinion, the transnational cleavage has strong explanatory value, but must not necessarily be detached from traditional cleavages, especially those with a territorial dimension (center vs. periphery and urban vs. rural). Instead, they merge or intermingle. The transnational cleavage could even be seen as a function or derivative of territorial cleavages. At the same time territorial cleavages present themselves as the geographical expression of a societal rift between those who profit from internationalization and those who are threatened by it.

Internationalization/globalization/Europeanization leads to – or fails to overcome – the decay of certain regions, especially of rural areas in the periphery and regions under structural change; this, then, has the potential to turn into anti-EU-voting. The territorial dimension of voter’s behavior shows a dividing line between those who surf the wave of globalization (the winners, located in the urban centers), and those from ‘places that don´t matter’ (Rodrigues-Pose 2017). I define ‘winner’ and ‘loser’ not in absolute terms, but in terms of relative distance to ‘others’, be they individuals, groups of persons or territorial units. What really matters, is decline. Inhabitants of declining areas seem to be more vulnerable to anti EU-voting, even if their personal situation is not worse than that of a comparable societal layer in regions catching-up. If the ratio of anti-EU voting, though, is not embedded in ‘welfare’ only – the hardships of making a every day’s living – the cultural dimension should matter, especially the construction of ‘Us’ (a perceived group, e.g. a nation) and ‘Them’ (the others). As a consequence, we have to search for a mixture of measurable ‘hard’ economic factors defining decline and correlate them with constructed images related to anti-EU voting. In my view, this mixture of political economic and political psychology draws the geographical map of anti-EU voting both in the Eastern and Western part of the EU.

Related Events: 

European Elections 2019 - Renewing the Political Agenda for a United Europe

The Hungarian Europe Society held an international conference supported by the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung für die Freiheit entitled "European Elections 2019 - Renewing the Political Agenda for a United Europe" on 12-13 April 2019 at the Ibis Styles Budapest Center (Rákóczi út 58, H-1074 Budapest).