Confessions of a Political Animal

January 13, 2010

European Leftwatch: The year to come

Ivo Josipović, the new Social Democrat president of Croatia

With 2010 now well underway, and with one election under it’s belt already, it is high time for a quick look ahead at the prospects for the Socialist International‘s member parties over the course of the next 12 months (an overview of what European Leftwatch is about can be found here).

2009 was a pretty mixed bag for the democratic socialist and social democratic parties of Europe, who for a variety of reasons have failed in many cases to reap any significant rewards from the continuing crisis of laissez-faire capitalism. The biggest story was, of course, the disastrous showing for the SPD in Germany, ending the grand coalition and ushering in (an already rather tarnished looking) right-wing coalition. The centre left was also heavily defeated in Bulgaria and Macedonia and failed to break out of opposition in Albania. Positives included victories in Greece and Iceland at the expense of incumbent centre-right governments (although both new leftist governments may well be seeing their victories as poisoned chalices by now) and the Partido Socialista’s re-election in Portugal.

With the centre left firmly out of power for the foreseeable future in France, Germany and Italy, that leaves only Britain and Spain of the major EU powers in Socialist International hands (and if you want to add Poland to the list of major powers, that shows no signs of shifting left any time soon). I don’t think the vast majority of readers of this blog are going to need reminding of the prospects for the British social democrats during 201o; basically, it seems highly unlikely that 2010 is going to be a vintage year for the European left. Below, we take a quick skim over national elections that either will or are likely to be held during the course of the next twelve months, starting with a calendar of those with fixed dates, then moving on to those with flexible term lengths. (more…)

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November 25, 2008

European Left Watch: Austria – as you were

set to be Austria's social democratic Chancellor

Walter Faymann: set to be Austria's Social Democrat Chancellor

It has taken the best part of two months since Austria’s inconclusive Nationalrat elections, but the country at last seems on the verge of having a new government. ‘New’ is only a formally acurate description in this instance, however, as the party make-up of the coalition will be precisely the same as that which governed Austria (with very limited success) for the previous 18 months.

The two months since the elections at the end of September have been pretty tumultuous in Austrain politics. The election was called early following the breakdown of the grand coalition government of the centre-left Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs (SPÖ) and the centre-right Österreichische Volkspartei (ÖVP), with polls showing that very few Austrians wanted the continuation of this form of government, which had proved highly ineffective. Prior to the elections, the unpopular sitting SPÖ Chancellor announced he would not be remaining as party leader and Chancellor candidate, being replaced by Walter Faymann in both roles.

The elections themselves saw both major parties losing electoral support (results table in the last post) and the two populist, anti-immigration hard-right parties (the FPÖ and the BZÖ) gaining significantly, to a combined total of nearly 30% of the vote. This effectively left two options for (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…)

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…)

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