State of the Left
Two Defining Contests
The political world is on the brink of two defining contests taking place either side of the Atlantic: next week, Obama vs Romney in the US; next year, Merkel vs Steinbrück in Germany.
In both cases the contests are being fought along increasingly partisan lines: political and ideological battles on a left-right axis are centre-stage. The US election is foreshadowed by a fundamental debate on the role of government and the size of the federal budget. The German election comes at a pivotal time for the European project: the last 6 months have shown the limits to François Hollande’s lonely fight to alter course; a Steinbrück victory could provide the necessary space for a genuinely alternative approach to the eurozone crisis.
This growing partisanship is also the case across Europe, after an era defined by political consensus and triangulation. Left-of-centre political parties in opposition have sharpened their game, but, as our State of the Left observers show, they have a long way to go to avoid the devastating blow of a string of further defeats amidst a protracted period of centre-right driven austerity.
A positive sign is the Dutch Labour party’s entry into coalition Government and the “post-populist” return of the mainstream. A warning to balance this welcome development is the extreme vulnerability of the Italian political system in the face of an onslaught of anti-political and populist actors.
Policy Network political observers
Reporting monthly from across the world, "State of the Left" features both regular columists and guest contributors.
US: Patchwork politics: The 2012 presidential election
"Obama’s strategy for re-election has foresworn any inspiring vision
for a second term. Instead, the campaign has narrowly targeted the
Democratic “new majority” coalition of blacks, Latinos, young voters and
By Michael Lind
Germany: The race for the Chancellorship
"If his party unites behind him, social democrat Peer Steinbrück
will push Angela Merkel right to the wire in the 2013 German federal
election... Part of [t]his appeal lies in his mixture of intellectual
wit with a Rambo-style persona."
By Michael Miebach
Netherlands: A new post-populist phase?
“It now appears that the Dutch electorate have moved to usher politics into a new post-populist phase, restoring the traditional parties with authority, stability and integrity. One could call this the rehabilitation of the mainstream parties."
By René Cuperus
UK: One nation, many political shambles
"The British public have a choice between the opposition’s good intentions with more detail to follow, and a never ending series of incompetent self-lacerations from the government. They, rightly, prefer the former to the latter."
By Hopi Sen
Italy: A political system on the brink of dramatic pulverisation
"The Italian political system is increasingly vulnerable to the onslaught of a myriad of anti-political and populist candidates that are completely incapable of guaranteeing governability. The only remaining stable anchor is the Democratic Party (PD)."
By Michele Prospero
Sweden: “Out-hawking” the right
"In the US, service in uniform usually features as part of a political candidate’s résumé... Swedish political culture has its own equivalent of being “tested in battle.” Being able to say, “I took part in cutting the deficit in the 1990s” is the counterpart."
By Katrine Kielos
France: Sarkostalgia sets in
"Politics is a curious game. Six months after being dismissed by the French electorate, Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency is now increasingly talked about in nostalgic terms. At the end of October, 64% of French people declared themselves unhappy with François Hollande’s policies."
By Renaud Thillaye
Australia: Atop the hill, Labor could still roll down the other side
"Perhaps the defining moment of Labor's resurgence was Ms Gillard's blistering Parliamentary rebuttal of the Opposition Leader's consistent personal attacks on her and other women. Ms Gillard's speech achieved a kind of viral popularity most politicians only dream of..."
By David Hetherington
Hungary: A fractured opposition
"As political forces in Hungary have polarised, so have the streets of Budapest, divided into an array of camps for and against the government... The lack of cohesion of liberal-left political forces for the past six years has turned political polarisation into political hegemony of the right."
By Erin Marie Saltman
Norway: Fresh fight over EU-relationship
"Experts on EU law are shaking their heads, and media commentators are wondering what the strategy of these radical union leaders really is. Since it is impossible to cancel one part of the EEA Agreement in this manner... it is tempting to believe that they have lost contact with reality or that they are pursuing private agendas."
By Sten Inge Jørgensen