State of the Left is a regular insight bulletin that reports from across the world of centre-left politics.
Each month it combines a Policy Network editorial with a range of political opinion pieces from expert commentators in different national settings. Regular contributors and guest writers ensure insight on key political developments and debate across Europe and beyond, including the US, UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, The Netherlands, Spain, Greece, Italy and Latin America.
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Editor: Michael McTernan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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State of the Left - January 2014
The rise of the vetocracy: Political volatility and government
Politics is ‘becoming Italian’. Political popularity is short-lived, governing is volatile and new populist actors are vaulting into the system with great success.
Moisés Naím identifies that in 30 of the 34 members of the OECD, the head of state is opposed by a parliament controlled by the opposition.
The rise of ‘vetocracies’ (Francis Fukuyama) ‒ where the opposition has veto majorities ‒ means that government is more-often than not based on flimsy mandates, vulnerable coalitions and strange bedfellows. Trends since the 1970s show that there has been a remarkable decline in the strength of governing mandates.
That power is now much more short-lived and diffuse is borne out in our collection of political updates. In the Netherlands, the Governing parties nurse a fragile coalition that is dependent on 3 small opposition parties to pass reforms – upcoming local and European elections look likely to severely upset this arrangement.
In France, President Hollande has launched a new supply-side ‘responsibility pact’ between the state and business. This agenda offers hope: but carrying the more left leaning elements of his coalition – he depends on the Green party to govern – is fraught with difficulty.
Even the UK – traditionally guarded by the first-past-the post system, but now governed by a Con-Lib coalition – seems on the verge of a transformational moment, with Labour and the Conservatives both breaking from the ‘traditional centre-ground’, and UKIP’s challenge growing.
In Norway, the Conservative party recently entered government with the populist Progress party – but both are severely constrained in their actions by dependence on two small centrist parties. Sweden and Denmark bear some similarities. And this is by no means a European phenomenon: in economically buoyant Australia, Tony Abbott, the newly elected Liberal prime minister, has endured one of the quickest opinion poll falls-from-grace in recent political history.
So how should progressives respond to these severe constraints? The changing nature of power structures looks unlikely to be kind to parties and elite institutions that stand still. These developments open the door for new networks and institutions powered by innovation and experimentation. In the US, for example, congressional wrangling has seen American city-regions move to reshape politics and economics, opening up new territory for collaboration between central government and local actors.
And, finally, if politics is ‘becoming Italian’ then, ironically, it is in Italy that some of the most remarkable and interesting developments are taking place: Matteo Renzi, the new secretary of the PD is shaking-up the establishment by declaring both an economic and an institutional emergency. It is a political story worth watching.
This month’s edition includes: UK, France, Italy, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Australia, Spain, Norway, Portugal and Hungary.
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