State of the Left - February 2013
Italy's centre-left looks set for success
The opinion polls have shut down in Italy with less than two weeks to go until the election day. Despite the hype about Silvio Berlusconi and Beppe Grillo making late surges, the Partito Democratico's lead looks comfortable (between 5 and 9 points according to different polls) and Pier Luigi Bersani looks set to give another injection of hope to the political Left in Europe.
The PD have positioned themselves cleverly as a responsible movement running against an array of political mavericks and will likely be rewarded for their efforts to open-up party structures: a successful primary leadership campaign was held and the party responded well to public demand for renewal in the political class by promoting women and young people in their election lists.
If successful, the crucial question, like for other parties on the centre-left, will be whether they have used their time in opposition to prepare a model of political economy which can credibly challenge the resolute form of neoliberalism and carry a coalition of voters through distributional and intergenerational economic conflicts - it looks likely that a PD-led government will involve complex coalition-building stretching from the far-left across the centre-left to Monti’s hotchpotch alliance of centrists and right-leaning factions.
The complex transition from opposition campaigning to government is becoming increasingly treacherous for centre-left parties. To be sure, the political promises of campaigning are different from the realities of government but the chasm between the two has grown in recent times.
In Germany, the SPD now plans to try and respond to this very challenge and capitalise on growing political disenchantment with sweeping promises and platitudes. They are looking to politicise a number of key policy issues and bring the fight to Angela Merkel based on a “governing programme” and a “competence team”. This might well give them at least a fighting chance after a number of campaign body blows.
Policy Network political observers:
Reporting monthly from across the world, "State of the Left" features both regular columists and guest contributors.
This month’s edition includes a feature essay on the rise of Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP). Political observations also come in from France, Sweden, Germany, US, UK, Italy, Australia and Spain.
Italy: Stalling in the campaign, but (probably) not in the election
"The centre-left coalition have seen their comfortable polling lead reduced but are predicted to do enough on election day. In promoting young people and women, they have responded well to public demands to renew the political class."
By Giuliano Bobba & Duncan McDonnell
Germany: More issues, less Steinbrück?
"In Lower Saxony, the limits of Angela Merkel’s long-term strategy became evident… The SPD is determined to shift the campaign focus from personalities to policy substance in a country where the main parties have reached a consensus on all the important political issues."
By Michael Miebach
US: Byzantium and booby traps
"While there may be an emerging Democratic electoral majority, obstacles to a new age of American liberalism remain, thanks to an American political system that makes medieval Byzantium look as efficient as modern Singapore by comparison."
By Michael Lind
UK: The low tax splash
"Labour's new lower tax rate would be funded by a tax on multi-million pound homes… Next month Tory finance minister George Osborne produces his own budget. If Osborne chooses to outbid Labour on low tax, British politics could get very interesting indeed."
By Hopi Sen
Sweden: The battle to own the Nordic model
"There is a political battle going on in Sweden about The Nordic Model. Fredrik Reinfeldt's political genius back in 2005 lay in realising that he had to embrace it… Now the Social Democrats have won a Patent and Registration Office case to protect it as a trade mark."
By Katrine Kielos
France: Political point scoring and the politics of reform
"The French political world has been passionately engaged by same-sex marriage and the war in Mali over the last few weeks... Yet, a more subdued revolution was going on in Paris at the same time, namely the resolute advancement, by the Socialist government, of long overdue supply-side reforms."
By Renaud Thillaye
Canada: Uncharted Waters for the New Democratic Party
"Having displaced the Liberals as Canada’s leading opposition party, the next two years will tell us a great deal about the success of the NDP’s transformation in building a party with a broad base of support that includes remnants of the urban working classes, suburban and urban middle class voters, resource extraction workers in the hinterlands."
By Peter Graefe & Simon Kiss
Australia: The odds are stacked against Labor
"The Prime Minister sprung a surprise by announcing an election will be held on 14 September, giving far longer notice than the customary six weeks. But the desired impact - looking decisive by ending speculation - has been trumped by a series of bad headlines."
By David Hetherington
Spain: Rebooting Spain
"The economic crisis has dragged on now for five long years and there is still no light at the end of the tunnel...Corruption, unemployment and economic malaise have seen the two mainstream parties hit historic lows in the polls. The solution requires enhanced economic union with Europe but also modernisation at home."
By Jonás Fernández Álvarez