In global geopolitics, domestic policies like mandatory voting can have transformative international impacts. For Western Europe, adopting compulsory voting could enhance democracy, transparency, and accountability, leading to more principled and representative foreign policies. This reform could strengthen regional unity, political stability, and Europe's global standing. While challenging, implementing robust voter registration, public education, and improved voting access promises a more engaged electorate and a resilient Europe prepared for global challenges.

In the intricate tapestry of global geopolitics, every domestic policy decision carries  weighty implications for diplomatic relations and international engagement. Among  these, the adoption of mandatory voting in Western Europe emerges as a potentially  transformative force, with far-reaching effects beyond national borders. Australia's  success with mandatory voting offers valuable insights for Western European countries into how such a system can  strengthen the fabric of democracy, with implications extending beyond its borders.  By implementing compulsory voting in federal elections since 1924, Australia has  consistently achieved remarkably high voter turnout rates, averaging around 94%,  according to the Australian Electoral Commission. This impressive level of civic  participation not only underscores the country's commitment to democratic  principles but also has significant implications for its foreign policy posture. 

Australia's robust mandatory voting system has garnered international attention for  its ability to foster a politically engaged citizenry, a factor that plays a crucial role in  shaping the country's foreign relations. With a populace that actively participates in  the democratic process, Australia's policymakers are arguably better positioned to formulate  foreign policy decisions that reflect the will and interests of the broader society. This ensures a more democratic and representative approach to international engagement, enhancing Australia's credibility and legitimacy on the global stage. 

At the core of this potential transformation lies the empowerment of the electorate.  Mandatory voting compels citizens to actively participate in the democratic process,  ensuring that their voices resonate in the corridors of power. This heightened  engagement holds significant implications for Western European countries as they  navigate their roles on the global stage, influencing diplomatic relations and policy  priorities. 

One immediate impact of mandatory voting is the demand it places on transparency  and accountability in foreign policy decision-making. With a more informed and  vigilant electorate, governments face heightened scrutiny over their actions in the  international arena. Citizens demand clarity on the rationale behind diplomatic manoeuvres, and expect their values to be upheld in global engagements. Consequently, governments may be compelled to adopt more transparent and  principled approaches to foreign policy, fostering greater trust both domestically and  abroad. 

Mandatory voting has the potential to spark robust public debates on international  issues. As citizens become more actively involved in the democratic process, they  seek out information and engage in discussions about the broader implications of  foreign policy decisions. This increased public scrutiny serves as a check on  government actions, forcing policymakers to consider a broader range of perspectives and values in shaping diplomatic strategies.

This demand for transparency and accountability can lead to the adoption of more  principled and ethical approaches to international relations. Western European  governments, under pressure from an engaged electorate, may prioritize human  rights, environmental sustainability, and conflict resolution in their diplomatic  endeavours. This shift towards principled diplomacy not only enhances the moral standing of Western Europe but also strengthens its reputation as a global leader in  promoting peace, justice, and human dignity. 

Mandatory voting can elevate Western Europe's role in global diplomacy and human  rights advocacy. A more engaged and empowered electorate sends a powerful signal  to the international community, demonstrating Western Europe's commitment to  democratic values and civic participation. This, in turn, can bolster Western Europe's  influence in shaping global norms and standards, providing a compelling example  for other nations to emulate. 

Mandatory voting can foster greater unity within the Western bloc, strengthening its  collective resilience in the face of external challenges. As Western European countries  align their foreign policies and strategic objectives, they present a more unified front  in confronting shared threats and adversaries. This cohesion enhances the bloc's  ability to navigate complex geopolitical dynamics and assert its interests on the  global stage. 

Implementing mandatory voting in the UK presents both challenges and  opportunities. While aligned with democratic principles and potentially addressing  voter apathy and low turnout, it demands significant political will and legislative  changes. Concerns about infringing on freedoms and enforcing laws may arise, along  with the need for tailored approaches due to cultural and historical differences.

However, the UK's strong tradition of civic engagement and public support for  enhancing democratic participation could drive change. With careful planning,  stakeholder engagement, and learning from global practices, successful  implementation is conceivable, strengthening democratic processes and ensuring a  more representative political landscape. 

To implement mandatory voting in the western bloc, using the UK as an example,  would need a multifaceted approach. Firstly, establishing a robust voter registration  system is crucial. This could involve automatic enrolment upon turning eighteen or  becoming eligible to vote, similar to practices in other countries. Additionally, fines  for non-voting, balanced with valid excuses, would be necessary as would ensuring  no freedom infringement by exempting purposely spoiled ballots. Educational  campaigns would play a vital role in informing citizens about civic responsibilities  and the importance of voting. These efforts could involve enhancing school curricula,  public service announcements, and targeted outreach programs to underserved  populations. Accessibility is crucial for ensuring voting rights for all citizens. The UK could expand early and postal voting options, exploring innovative solutions such as  mobile booths and online platforms, to facilitate participation, especially for  individuals with busy schedules or mobility issues. By adopting these measures, the  UK could address voter apathy, boost political engagement, and foster a more  inclusive democracy. 

A more engaged and representative electorate contributes to greater political  stability and social cohesion within Western European countries. Mandatory voting  fosters a sense of collective ownership over the democratic process, promoting unity  and solidarity among citizens. This internal cohesion not only enhances Western  Europe's resilience but also bolsters its capacity to confront external challenges,  including geopolitical competition with countries like China and Russia. 

The adoption of mandatory voting in Western Europe holds immense  potential to reshape not only diplomatic relations but also domestic politics, social  cohesion, and regional unity. By empowering the electorate, fostering transparency  and accountability, promoting principled diplomacy, and strengthening the Western  bloc's cohesion, mandatory voting can enhance Western Europe's standing on the  global stage and prepare it for the challenges of the 21st century. As Western  European countries embrace this democratic reform, they can forge a path towards a more resilient, united, and influential role in shaping the future of global affairs.


Devin Hindry is due to begin his degree in International Relations in September 2024.