An arena for effective opposition? : A systematic investigation into political opposition in the European Parliament
Sammanfattning: The European Union is suffering from a legitimacy crisis, which thus far has culminated with Great Britain’s decision to exit the union. According to the ‘opposition deficit thesis’, this is caused as there is no arena in which effective opposition can be voiced in the European Union, which forces EU citizens to organise their opposition outside the political system, and often against it. However, as no systemic analysis has been conducted on the opposition deficit in the EU’s democratic centre, no convincing conclusions has been made. Thus, the purpose of this thesis is to systemically test the opposition deficit thesis, and to add to the current lack of research on the topic. The centre for any democratic legitimacy is the political system’s elected representatives in parliament, in which any opposition deficit would strongly indicate a democratic deficit. Therefore, I ask: is the European Parliament an arena for effective opposition? To test the opposition deficit systematically and empirically, data from 20 plenary debates between the years 2005-2007 in the European Parliament were gathered. Through simple statistical analysis, we conclude that most statements are oppositional (55 percent) and that there is no oppositional deficit. While most opposition is effective and thus has real effect in the policy-making process, the definition and operationalisation provided within the opposition deficit thesis must be refuted due to theoretical inconsistencies. Furthermore, oppositional behaviour at party- and individual level was also investigated, showing that Eurosceptic party groups are more oppositional than mainstream party groups and through their opposition minimise the European Union’s democratic deficit when voiced within the system. Also, we find that there is no significant relationship between gender and political opposition, contrary to past assumptions. Therefore, it is concluded that there is no oppositional deficit in the European Parliament, and possibly no such deficit in the European Union. So, while the European Union it is suffering a legitimacy crisis which may be caused by a democracy deficit, it is not correlated to political opposition as described by the opposition deficit thesis.
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