The new democratic deficit: People with intellectual disabilities must be able to cast their votes in the 2014 European Parliament elections

PRESS RELEASE: Brussels, 6 May 2014

The European Parliament (EP) is always portrayed as the perfect example of legitimacy and representation in the European Union (EU). Directly elected, but still powerful enough to approve or reject legislation, it was meant to prove, once and for all, that the EU is democratic in every sense of the word.

However, with more than five million Europeans with intellectual disabilities at risk of not being able to choose the politicians representing them in the European Parliament, EU’s “democratic deficit” takes on a whole new meaning. Institutionalization, the removal of legal capacity, as well as the lack of accessible and understandable information on both the electoral process and the content of political programmes, are keeping persons with intellectual disabilities from exercising their right to vote, and thus further perpetuating a model of social exclusion.

It is crucial for people with intellectual disabilities to have their voices heard in the European elections. Equally, future members of the European Parliament (MEPs) must commit to upholding their rights while in office. More concretely, Inclusion Europe calls on the future legislature to abolish all measures that exclude citizens with disabilities from the electoral process and to ensure equal recognition before the law for all people, regardless of disability.

Additionally, in line with the General Comment on Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, guardianship must be replaced by supported decision-making systems, which uphold the individual’s right to take charge of his or her life. The European Union should also immediately stop all financial support for residential institutions, and instead promote independent living and social inclusion.

A genuine democratic process is transparent and inclusive, and a representative European Parliament must come into being through a voting procedure where no voices are silenced. Supporting people with intellectual disabilities in choosing their elected leaders is surely the measure of a truly strong Union, which values all its citizens equally.

To read Inclusion Europe’s full manifesto for the 2014 European Parliament elections, please click here. For more information, please contact Silvana Enculescu, Inclusion Europe Communications Officer, at