Since the Animal started tracking the fortunes of Labour’s sister parties in August, there have been four elections in Europe, which have led to centre-left parties entering government in two new countries: as the senior coalition partner in Slovenia and as junior coalition partner in Romania. Meanwhile, the social democratic SPÖ retained the Austrian chancellorship as the senior partner in a grand coalition, whilst the centre left parties lost their position in the government of Lithuania.
What then of the twelve months to come in 2009? There are, of course, any number of imponderables, with non-fixed term parliaments potentially coming to an end, most obviously in the UK. Likewise, despite the fact that there isn’t an election scheduled in 2009, you would be unwise, given the last fortnight of anti-government rioting, to bet against an early parliamentary election taking place.
However, even if no ‘wildcat’ elections take place, there is plenty to be getting our teeth into during 2009, perhaps most notably the German parliamentary elections in late September, which looks likely to shape up to be something of a intra-grand coalition grudge match. A quick look at scheduled elections involving European Socialist International member parties for the next twelfth months follows:
15 March Macedonia Presidential – the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) will seek to defend the presidency, with the current incumbent Branko Crvenkovski standing down. Since the 2004 presidential election, which the SDSM candidate won with 61% of the vote in the second round of voting, the SDSM-led coalition lost control of the national government in 2006 parliamentary elections.
Unknown date, April Andorra Parliamentary – the Andorran Social Democratic Party is currently the largest opposition party in the principality, with a centre-right coalition led by the Liberal Party of Andorra currently in government. The parliamentary seats are divided between constituency seats and a number allocated through a proportional system.
14 June Luxembourg Parliamentary – the Luxembourg Socialist Workers Party (no relation whatsoever to it’s British namesake!) is currently the junior partner in a grand coalition with the centre-right Christian Social People’s Party. The last parliamentary elections in 2004 saw both of these two major parties advance, primarily at the expense of the liberal Democratic Party, the previous junior coalition partner.
Unknown date, June Albania Parliamentary – Albania confusingly has two Socialist International member parties: the larger Socialist Party of Albania, which is the direct descendant of Hoxa’s Communist Party; and the much smaller Social Democratic Party of Albania, which was formed following the fall of communism. The Socialist Party is currently the largest opposition party following the 2005 elections, when it lost its position as governing party to the centre-right Democratic Party of Albania and its allies.
Unknown date, June Lithuania Presidential– with the centre-left having lost control of the parliament last year, there seems to be little chance of much better news this year. In 2004 independent Valdas Adamkus was re-elected president, with the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania’scandidate taking just 11% of the vote. With Adamkus term-limited up to 6 candidates are currently in the running for the presidency.
14 September Norway Parliamentary – the Norwegian Labour Party, the nation’s dominant post-war party is currently in government, although for the first time ever it was required to enter into a coalition following the 2005 general election, with the Green party. The most recent polls suggest that the Labour Party is maintaining its support levels at a little below that achieved in 2005, with the right-wing populist Progress Party the main challengers.
27 September Germany Parliamentary– 2009’s biggy (although a UK election would obviously equal it in importance), the German federal elections will decide the fate of the CDU-SPDgrand coalition formed after the inconclusive 2005 elections. Chancellor Merkel is clearly hoping to be able to end the link with the social democrats (and her Bavarian partners in the CSU have been explicit about this), with the grand coalition having been an unhappy experience for the SPD as well. However, current polling seems to suggest that neither the traditional centre-right or centre-left-green coalitions will gain a majority, in part due to the continued high levels of support for Die Linke, which refuses to enter government coalitions. This may well mean a continuation of the grand coalition or another non-traditional coalition arrangement.
Unknown date, September Portugal Parliamentary – the Socialist Party currently forms a single party government, having defeated the mis-named Social Democratic Party in 2005. With a number of possible coalition partners, the Socialists would seem to have something of a buffer available to them before they lose control of government. However, the Social Democrat Aníbal Silva easily won the 2006 presidential elections to succeed a term limited Socialist.
Unknown date during 2009 Montenegro Parliamentary Montenegro is constitutionally obliged to hold parliamentary elections during 2009. This young nation has two Socialist International members, who form the current government: the ex-communist Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro, the senior partner; and the smaller Social Democratic Party of Montenegro.
Unknown date during 2009 Romania PresidentialRomania will vote for its president towards the end of 2009. The current President, Traian Basescu originated in the right-wing Justice and Truth Alliance. However, in 2007 he was impeached by parliament, but this was later overturned by a national referendum. In the 2004 Presidential Elections, the Social Democratic Party’s candidate Adrian Nastase won the first round by a clear margin, before being narrowly defeated by Basescu in the run-off. The Social Democrats achieved reasonable results in 2008’s parliamentary elections and now form the large junior partner of the governing coalition.
Unknown date during 2009 Slovakia Presidential No date has yet been set for Slovakia’s presidential election. The current president, Ivan Gašparovic is the leader of the very small Movement for Democracy party, but was elected in 2004 with the support of Direction-Social Democracy, who didn’t stand their own candidate. This situation seems likely to be repeated in 2009, with opinion polls suggesting Gašparovic will be re-elected.
The other major electoral test for Europe’s centre-left and left parties will be the European Parliamentary Elections in early June, which will be an interesting barometer of the parties’ electoral fortunes. The traditional pattern is for European elections, as second order elections, to be used as vehicles for protest votes: thus left parties in government will suffer, those in opposition will benefit. It is parties which buck these trends that we should be keeping our eyes on.
More on these elections, and any others that pop up, as they happen.