Disfranchised

Disfranchisement (also called disenfranchisement) is the revocation of the right of suffrage (the right to vote) to a person or group of people, or rendering a person’s vote less effective, or ineffective.

That’s what’s happened to me. Today was another election day, this time for MPs to go to the European parliament but even if you’re not that interested in the EU gravy train it is at least an opportunity to have your say about the performance of the current government. So far, it looks as though the people of Poland are generally happy with PO whilst the people of the UK are extremely unhappy with Mr. Brown. Still, losing every recent election by a landslide and having large chunks of his party members resigning and rebelling is, apparently, not going to stop Mr. Brown driving the Labour Party and the country over a cliff!

Here’s the family about to cast a vote earlier today. M can vote in Polish elections and Zosia will also be able to do that when she’s old enough. I can’t.

I believe I could pop down the embassy and vote in UK elections but why on earth would I bother to do that? Upholding my right to vote just for the sake of it surely defeats the whole idea of letting people vote, doesn’t it? Isn’t the idea of voting to give people a say in how their country is governed, how their hard earned tax money is spent? My hard earned tax money is lining Mr. Tusk’s pockets, not Mr. Brown’s. My living standards are Polish, everything a government could do that might effect or influence me happens in Poland, not in the UK (aside perhaps from inheritance tax if there’s anything left to inherit). And yet it is here in Poland that I am denied the vote. I contribute more to this country’s budget than most people I know and yet I am denied any possibility to have a say in how that is spent other than through my wife who quite rightly makes her own contributions and has her own say and is therefore not listening to me.

On the other hand, I can very easily pop down the British Embassy and place my protest vote against Brown. A country where I really don’t care too much who wins or loses because they are more or less the same and take it in turns anyway. A country I no longer contribute to or take from in any way. A country where, quite frankly I feel I have no justification for a vote and therefore don’t exercise my right to do so.

So here I am, not allowed a vote in the elections I care most about in the country of which I am an active and involved “citizen” but allowed a vote in a country that I simply visit as a tourist once or twice a year. Frankly, I’d be happier if I was allowed to transfer my vote to one of the Poles we met working in that fish & chip shop in Llandudno, it would mean more to them than it does to me.

It all seems rather unfair to me and I can’t help wondering if it might change one day?!

On a final note, why is Poland wasting so much forest on their voting slips? Even if it’s recycled paper it surely doesn’t need to be this big, it’s quite ludicrous. An edition of the New York Times plus all supplements doesn’t use as much paper as this! I know electronic systems have had their problems in the past but I would have thought that by 2009 we might have managed to sort that one out!

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23 thoughts on “Disfranchised

  1. so, my only comment concerns a final one. we are all shocked with the size of voting slips! this is not only big, but huge! size of A2, what for? this is so us, unfortunately.

  2. Scatts, you can vote in the Euro Parliament elections. Every EU citizen who lives in another country than his nationality is, has the right to vote in local and european elections. In the same way Polish people vote in the UK. I’m sure there is some burrecracy to be done to do it, I can find out what exactly if you want.

    Maybe we should post instructions on Polandian next time round?

  3. By “local elections” I mean local government: województwo, powiat, gmina.

    Only national parliament elections are excluded from this.

  4. Paweł’s right, you can vote in the Euro-elections in either Poland or the UK (by post/proxy), you just have to register earlier to vote in Poland. And since you’re voting for the European Parliament it has an impact on both countries so it’s definitely worth voting. I’m with you on the County elections though: if you have no intention of moving back to the UK then what’s the point?

  5. It is interesting to see the lengths I am supposed to go to to allow me to vote here in Poland – 12 bullet points around half of which have very high potential for being misunderstood by Pani Urząd. For example, being able to prove “permanent residence” when my karta pobytu (issued according to EU laws) is only valid for 5 years, in my case until 2010.

    I have absolutely no idea what is the “name of a electoral constituency or locality in a home Member State where he/she is inserted in the register of voters” either. Moved around too much and it was all a very long time ago now.

    Oh well, they seem to have done enough that I can’t complain but not exactly made it easy for me to vote! Typical.

  6. “I have absolutely no idea what is the “name of a electoral constituency or locality in a home Member State where he/she is inserted in the register of voters” either. Moved around too much and it was all a very long time ago now.”

    Of course you don’t because you are British:) In the UK you register as a voter before every elections right?

    In Poland, and few other continental countries, there is “meldunek” and you are automatically registered on a voters list there. Unless you register somewhere else befre the elections or take a special paper to be able to vote anywhere.

    To be honest I hate translations of official polsh documents, because all the legal terms are lost in translation. I don’t know what they mean by “permanent residence”. Zamieszkanie? Meldunek? Something else?I could call the PKW and ask.

    I think this is a good subject to research and write a post next time on Polandian.

    But I admit this matter is f**** overregulated just as anything else in Poland.

    I wonder what you have to do in the UK to vote..

  7. Sorry to be rude, but if you used the energy you have wasted writing this rant to find out how to get yourself on the electoral register in Poland, you would not be in this mess. Did you make any effort? Did you contact the electoral commission, the electoral regisraton officer, or whoever controls these things in Poland?

    And are you telling me that you don’t know where your are registered to vote in the UK? Have a think, when did you last vote in the UK? What town were you in? If you’ve never voted you are probably still registered at your parents’ house.

    Pawel, in the UK every household gets a letter from the local electoral regisraton officer every year, asking who lives in the house. You then right down who lives there (along with their dates of birth, previous place of registration, citzenship if not British (it actually says Nationality just to confuse you) and some other info I forget. If you are an EU citizen, you can vote in local and Euro elections, while Commonweealth citizens can vote in all elections.

    The electroral register people then check out the info, and send back a letter saying you have been put on the electoral register. That’s it.

  8. Richard,

    Not wishing to go off at a tangent BUT I should reinforce that my main beef is with national elections, not EU ones. I think the Sejm has a bigger influence on how my money is spent and how my life in Warsaw looks than does the European Parliament. As seems to be the case in everyone’s opinion, I’m not allowed a vote in the election that counts. So, rant justified IMHO.

    I know I used the EU elections as a backdrop and that may be confusing but that’s what reminded me to post and I had photos handy.

    EU elections are a bit of a side show, perhaps they shouldn’t be and I’m sure we could debate that for a month or two but that’s how I see it. Nevertheless, it might be worth registering now I know it can be done.

    No, I genuinely have no idea when I last voted in the UK or where I was living at the time. After getting screwed by Thatcher and then bored stiff by Major I may possibly have voted for the Blair Witch Project in ’97. Then again, it was so blindingly obvious he was going to win, I may not have bothered, especially with the amount of travelling I was doing in those days. If not ’97 then I really have no idea when. I have certainly never voted for Brown – but then neither has anyone else!!

  9. Slight misunderstanding. Sorry if a bit strong. I would agree that is is frustrating not being able to vote in the ¨proper¨ elections abroad.

    On the other hand, it does seem right somehow that you have to be a citizen of a country before you can vote in its elections. Maybe that’s the final stage of expatdom, taking the plunge and taking local citizenship!

  10. Registering to vote here as a foreigner was the easiest thing I’ve ever done in an urząd. It was totally pain-free and took about 30 seconds.

  11. Yes, zegar, pray tell!

    Richard – agreed, that is the pinnacle of expatdom and I hope to reach it one day. My own dowód osobisty, yummy!

    Paweł – you calling me a foreigner? Grrr

  12. I printed off 2 forms from the urząd gminy website (I think they are also on the PKW site), filled them in and took them to the urząd gminy. A nice lady took them from me and asked if I would like to have the letter confirming that I was entered onto the voting register sent to me by registered letter or to pick up the letter in person. I chose to pick it up in person collected it a few days later with no problems.

    Foreign friends who registered in other parts of the city also reported that the experience was a doddle.

  13. guest,

    1. you are an idiot

    2. at least the british embassy is the only public institution in poland to give moral support to the lgbtq human rights movement in this country. i’m very grateful.

  14. I think he probably does but then when you read what you said carefully, it could mean something completely different.

    This is the trouble with text. It’s too easy to jump to the wrong conclusion.

  15. If you’re not I’m sorry:> I’m so used to things like that in comment section of onet.pl or the front page of “Dziennik” I got immune to possible double-meanings:>

  16. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Europe: Updates On European Parliament Election

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