Confessions of a Political Animal

November 7, 2008

European Left Watch: Endgame in Slovenia

Borut Pahor, Slovenia's new Social Democrat Prime Minister

Borut Pahor, Slovenia's new Social Democrat Prime Minister

Just briefly posting to note the conclusion of that other election saga that has been gripping the world’s attention: Slovenia is about to have a new government. We reported back in September that the Slovenian Social Democrat partyhad narrowly emerged as the largest party in the Parliament following the general election, apparently ending the reign of the centre-right coalition led by Janez Jansa.

A mere seven weeks on from the results being declared, the negotiations for a new coalition have concluded, with a new government about to be formed by the expected coalition of the Social Democrats, two liberal parties (Zares and the Liberal Democrats) and the left-leaning Pensioner’s Party. The new coalition will hold 50 of the 90 seats in the National Assembly, providing a sizeable majority, and will be headed by Social Democrat leader Borut Pahor. Pahor will be confirmed as Prime Minister by the National Assembly tomorrow (yes – a parliament meeting on a Saturday apparently!).

Despite it being centre left-led, I wouldn’t expect anything too radical from the new government – (more…)

October 31, 2008

Short hiatus and some updates

I am away this weekend (the picture should be a clue as to where) and today looks busy, so probably no posting this side of Monday. Don’t cry too much, please.

However, I thought it might be worth providing some updates on a few of my earlier posts, just so they don’t feel forgotten (and so in some cases the Animal can say “told you so”).

October 28th Is the Game Afoot? The Animal speculated that a prolonged period of single figure Conservative poll leads over the next couple of months would suggest that the narrative about the next election would change, with a hung parliament maybe becoming a stronger possibility than a stonking Tory majority. We’re a long way off a prolonged period yet, and the latest Yougov poll does show Labour moving out a smidgin, but the Tory lead remains (just) within the psychologically important single figure zone. 

October 27th European Left Watch: Out of Office in Lithuania The Animal reported on the defeat for the parties that formed the Social Democrat-led government in Lithuania by a mixture of (more…)

October 27, 2008

European Left Watch: Out of office in Lithuania

Seimas (Parliament) Building, Vilnius

Seimas (Parliament) Building, Vilnius

We reported two weeks ago on the first round of Lithuania’s parliamentary elections. From the first set of results it was clear that the Social Democrat-led coalition was headed for a particularly nasty defeat, with the lead party itself set to arrive in fourth place overall. Well, two weeks on the news isn’t any better, with the constituency seats now declaring.

The Lietuvos socialdemokratų partija (Lithuanian Social Democratic Party) do appear to have done a little better in the constituency run-offs that took place yesterday than they did in the proportional list based seats decided last week – presumably because the power of incumbency for established party representatives allowed some in-roads to be made against the newly-established populist parties who did remarkably well in the list votes. This means that the Social Democrats are likely to be able to claw themselves into second place in terms of Seimas seats, but well short of the resurgent Tėvynės sąjunga – Lietuvos krikscionys demokratai (Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats).

The two new ‘populist’ parties, the National Resurrection Party founded just last year by Lithuanian TV personality Arünas Valinskas who hosts the country’s version of Pop Idol (Politicalbetting considers if (more…)

October 13, 2008

European Left Watch: Going Fourth in Lithuania

Outgoing (almost certainly) PM Gediminas Kirkilas

Outgoing (almost certainly) PM Gediminas Kirkilas

The results of the first round of Lithuania’s parliamentary election, held yesterday, make for unhappy reading for the centre-left. On first round vote shares, the nation’s Socialist International member Lietuvos socialdemokratų partija (Lithuanian Social Democratic Party), until now the senior partner in the nation’s governing coalition under Prime Minister Gediminias Kirkilas, looks set to sink to a deeply depressing fourth place, behind the main centre-right party Tėvynės sąjunga – Lietuvos krikscionys demokratai (Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats).

In second and third place are two new parties which are being widely described as ‘populist’: the National Revival Party, formed by TV and pop personalities with 15.5% and the Order and Justice Party, founded by impeached former President Rolands Paksaswith 12.9%. Mr Paksas was formerly a member of the Homeland Union, prior to obtaining the dubious honour of being the first European head of state to be successfully impeached in 2004, for corrupt practices. He is currently forbidden from leaving Lithuania.

The other major left-leaning party, Darbo Partija (Labour Party), which was founded in 2003 and became the largest party in Parliament in 2004, looks set to fall to fifth place with around 9.2% of the vote. Labour had been in coalition with the Social Democrats until the election.

As is likely to be the case in every general election across the world for the next few years at least, the (more…)

September 29, 2008

European Left Watch: Still ahead in Austria, but will the SPO get to lead?

It’s Monday, so it must be the day after a European legislative election.

Austria went to the polls yesterday and, as the Animal (and the polls…) predicted, the social-democratic SPÖ emerged retaining its position as the largest party in the Nationalrat. The SPÖ’s leader, Walter Faymann, has claimed the right to the Chancellery. However, the big story of the night was the worrying surge of the hard-right at the expense of the two mainstream parties. The combined vote shares of the FPÖ and Jörg Haider’s BZÖ amounted to 29%, well in excess of the 25.6% achieved by the centre-right ÖVP, and only marginally short of the SPÖ’s 29.7%. This success appears to have been built on the back of a virulent campaign of anti-EU and anti-immigration rhetoric: the FPÖ’s neo-Nazi linked leader Heinz Strache went in for some particularly choice phrases, including describing burqa-wearing women as ‘female ninjas’.

As was widely expected, the elections, which were the result of the ÖVP walking out of their deadlocked grand coalition with the SPÖ appear to have done absolutely nothing to break the (more…)

September 26, 2008

European Left Watch: Is Austria’s decree nisi going to be denied?

Austria goes to the polls on Sunday to elect a new Nationalrat (National Council), almost two years to the day after it last did so. The 2006 elections produced electoral stalemate, with both main parties losing significant numbers of votes, but leaving the centre-left Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs (SPÖ) with a very narrow plurality of seats, regaining the position it had historically held until 2002. The results thankfully prevented a continuation of the coalition between the centre-right Österreichische Volkspartei (ÖVP) and the neo-fascist Bündnis Zukunft Österreich (BZÖ) led by Jörg Haider. The inclusion of the far-right in government had led to a degree of international isolation, with diplomatic sanctions imposed against the country by the EU and Israel.

The only workable solution after the 2006 elections involved a return to the traditional SPÖ-ÖVP grand coalition, which had been a regular occurrence in post-war Austria. The government was led by SPÖ Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer. On this occasion, however, the grand coalition has proved to be (more…)

September 22, 2008

European Left Watch: Breakthrough in Slovenia

Slovenian Parliament, Ljubljana

Slovenian Parliament, Ljubljana

In the early life of this blog, I promised to keep a watch on the electoral fortunes of Labour’s sister parties in Europe. And whilst it isn’t big (but is certainly beautiful), and the current incumbent of the White House isn’t quite sure about its identity, our first point of call is the republic of Slovenia, pop. 2.02 million and the richest of the former Yugoslav states.

Slovenia went to the polls yesterday in a parliamentary general election for the Drzavni zbor (National Assembly), with a turnout of 62.2%. Whilst the results are not yet official, at least in part due to the need to await overseas votes (these account for over 2.5% of the electorate and are expected by Wednesday), it seems highly likely that a coalition led by the Socialni demokrati(Social Democrats – in part a descendant of the Yugoslav Communist Party) will have narrowly defeated the incumbent centre-right coalition of Prime Minister Janez Jansa. The result is something of a surprise, as opinion polls as late as last week were giving a sizable lead to Jansa, despite corruption allegations, although the most recent polls suggested the race was tightening.

It now seems likely that Social Democrat leader Borut Pahor (currently an MEP) will become Prime Minister at the head of a three party coalition involving (more…)

August 27, 2008

Left behind in Europe

I have a great interest in European politics. That’s not the same thing as having a great knowledge, mind, because as with most things the interest boils down to a scatter-gun approach to picking up pieces of random trivia. Broadly speaking, I develop a fascination with the politics of wherever I go on holiday, which will extend to attempting to read the papers, working out the mathematics of possible coalitions and deciding what advice I could give from my vast experience of electoral politics in the unlikely event of my being stuck in a railway compartment with the leader of the local socialist party. Thus, a couple of years ago, I could have written a post on the minutiae of contemporary Slovenian politics. Now, I couldn’t tell you who the President is. My current knowledge of European domestic politics is, to all intents and purposes, limited to:

a) an ability to discuss at great and tedious length the quasi-authoritarian nature of the governorship of the Svalbard archipelago; (more…)

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