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Home News State of the Left - March 2012

State of the Left

22 March 2012
State of the Left

State of the Left - March 2012

In Europe, the volatile crisis surrounding the eurozone area remains the defining political issue. The “fiscal compact” and battery of measures adopted by EU leaders may have avoided a sudden heart attack, but slow suffocation is now a distinct threat.

This realisation has served as a shot in the arm to centre-left parties. The under pressure Francois Hollande has long declared that he would put the full weight of a French Socialist presidency behind renegotiating the fiscal compact. The new Dutch Labour leader Diederik Samsom has threatened to vote it down in parliament, and there is every possibility that playing hardball on its negotiation through the German Bundestag could be a game changer for the stagnating SPD.

At the centre of this is a debate about positive cooperation and European integration. Are social democrats capable of presenting a new social face for the EU amidst rising anti-European sentiment and abrasive creditor-debtor political cleavages? And does this involve more or less integration and ambition than the fiscal compact?

For now Europe’s political path is defined by austerity and stagnating growth. The UK chancellor’s new budget was headlined by a reduction in top-level income tax, giving Ed Miliband a chance to channel the outraged voice of middle England. And in Spain, the Socialist party are dealing with the difficult task of renewal in opposition as the new Rajoy government defines its own brand of austerity politics.

Elsewhere, in the US prevailing wisdom suggests an Obama victory, but this complacency is ill-advised in the face of still slow economic recovery. And in Sweden, the social democrats have climbed rapidly in the polls under the new leader Stefan Löfven, who has rocked the incumbent Moderate party by accusing them of being anti-business and weak on industrial policy.

Finally, State of the Left also reports on key 2012 presidential elections in Mexico and Venezuela, and from Australia, where the Labor government endeavors to leave behind its recent political soap opera.

View the latest opinion polls, voter intentions and social democratic manifestos from across Europe here >>

Policy Network political observers

porting monthly from across the world, "State of the Left" features both regular columists and guest contributors.

UK: Too clever chancellor looks snookered

"By squeezing the elderly and the middle class at the same time as cutting taxes for the wealthy,  Osborne has given Labour leader Ed Miliband the chance to play the outraged voice of middle England." By Hopi Sen

Netherlands: Can Diederik Samsom save Labour?

“In his Rotterdam acceptance speech, new leader Samsom declared war on the government, saying that the PvdA's support on issues such as Europe would henceforth depend on the government adopting social democratic policies.” By Michiel van Hulten

   Germany: All bark, no opposition bite

Michael Miebach"Merkel’s governing coalition is dependent on the votes of SPD to pass the fiscal compact. If the SPD refuses to give the thumbs up, the whole agreement – one of Merkel´s flagship projects – would become obsolete. She would be severely damaged." By Michael Miebach

   France: The Sarkozy offensive

"In the aftermath of the Toulouse shootings, Sarkozy is likely to secure an additional electoral advantage through a strong law-and-order rhetoric, against which it is far from clear what Hollande could offer as an alternative." By Gilles Ivaldi & Jocelyn Evans

Australia: Moving beyond political soap opera

"A debate over fair distribution of Australia’s mining income gives Labor a platform to move beyond recent party strife and reconnect with ordinary voters on inequality, wealth distribution and the role of media campaigns in policymaking” By David Hetherington

  Sweden: Löfven gets social democrats back to business

“Protectionist rhetoric seems to be on the rise almost everywhere but the Swedish social democrats have taken another path... Stefan Löfven has started off by attacking Fredrik Reinfeldt's centre-right government for being anti-business.” By Katrine Kielos

US: After the Republican sideshow

"The conventional wisdom in Washington now holds that Barack Obama’s re-election is likely.  That may be the case, but the Democrats face headwinds in trying to retain the White House."
By Michael Lind

    The big Latin American elections of 2012

“Two Latin American countries will hold elections that have the potential to alter the regional landscape… Mexico and Venezuela have chosen different paths towards development. Elections will place those paths to the test, or at least to the ballot.” By Francisco Javier Diaz & Robert L. Funk

  Spain: Rajoy's first 100 days

“It is inevitable that in 2012 the economy will again decline and the destruction of employment and the number of households receiving no type of subsidy will accelerate as Spain endures the fourth straight year of a crisis.” By Jonás Fernández Álvarez 

State of the Left is Policy Network's monthly insight bulletin reporting from across the world of social democratic politics. Browse the State of the Left archive here.

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