Democracies to the test” “Gay marriage, Ireland to the polls

On May 22 the citizens of the green island will vote in the referendum on "gay marriage." Politics: Poland and Spain to the polls

These are days of elections in Europe. In a year when several countries in Europe go to the polls for legislative, administrative elections, or to answer important questions of the referendums, the democratic challenge calls into question once again the role of electors-citizens as well as collective and individual responsibilities, before the common good.For quite some time there has been a steady decline in voter turnout in almost all countries of the Old Continent, a sign that participatory democracy struggles to stir consciences, and that too often social networks are taken for new "democratic agora". Moreover, there are interesting elements. In the elections for the renewal of the European Parliament in May 2014, the upward trend of abstentions came to a halt, perhaps due to a renewed focus on the EU in a situation marked by the economic crisis, sincere pro-integration options, anti-EU and anti-euro movements that brought to the polls citizens that had defected them for years. Nevertheless, the referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom and the recent suffered parliamentary elections in Britain have revived a political debate and an electoral confrontation marked by liveliness in some ways unprecedented. Maybe because when decisive decisions are at stake, and these are perceived by citizens, the latter want their voice to be heard.Three important elections lie ahead. Sunday, May 24 Polish citizens are called to the ballot to choose the President of the Republic. The outgoing head of state Bronislaw Komorowski, a member of the Centre Party and pro-European platform of citizens, that has governed the country for eight years, will challenge, on the opposite front, Andrzej Duda, who had good results in the first round, beating the same Komorowski. Duda presented himself as a young, brilliant politician, capable of stirring strongly nationalist sentiments, rather Eurosceptic and anti-Russian. The shift to the right of the registered electorate in the first round two weeks ago is a success due also to his ability to have a grip on compatriots.Also on May 24 Spain’s citizens will go to the polls to renew several regional governments (the regional Communities) and town councils, including Barcelona and Madrid. It’s a important test ahead of the national elections scheduled for the coming fall. In this case, it will be interesting to verify citizens’ support to the two traditional political forces – the People’s Party of Premier Mariano Rajoy and the Socialist Party led by Pedro Sanchez – as compared to the new forces emerged from "grassroots level", from the square of the Indignados, from the protests against the crisis and unemployment. Thus the Podemos movement, with the unquestioned leader Pablo Iglesias, and the Ciudadanos, headed by Albert Rivera, are put to the test.Under other aspects, the vote of May 22 in Ireland may cause a radical change in the life of the Country. In fact, the citizens of the green island are called to take part in the referendum on an issue that could change the Constitution, by introducing same-sex marriage. Dublin has already regulated civil unions, including homosexual marriages. Now the promoters, that enjoy large support across government forces and in the media, intend to equalise unions between two women or between two men to the marriage between a man and women. This would pave the way – as underlined by all the supporters of the "no"-vote, notably the Church – to child adoption and artificial insemination for gay people.The Catholic world in Ireland has acted with a certain degree of determination, supported by the episcopate. Archbishop Eamon Martin, primate of Ireland, ahead of the vote said, inter alia, "If society adopts and imposes a new form of Orthodoxy of gender-neutral marriage, simply defining it as the union between two people – a man and a man or a woman and a woman – it will be increasingly hard to speak or teach in public that marriage is the union of a man and a woman." "As faithful we believe that the union of a man and a woman in marriage, open to children’s procreation, is a gift of God."On his part, the bishop of Waterford, Phonsie Culliman, remarked: "The message that we are bombarded with every day is that we are all equal. This is true: we are all equal in dignity, but we’re not all the same. Men and women are different. Children are different from adults. The union of a man and a woman is different from any other kind of relationship between two men or two women." The bishops highlighted the need to ensure the full respect of homosexual persons, recognising "the extent of their discrimination in Ireland, as elsewhere", wrote bishop John Kirby, of Clonfert, in a message. "However, it should be reiterated that homosexual unions are substantially different from those between people belonging to opposite genders", marked by a "complementariness" that is fundamental in the development and education of the offspring.

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