Whilst the political meltdown here seems more than likely to benefit the smaller parties, other nations across Europe are bracing themselves for seismic shifts in the political landscape. The European elections may well see some radical developments on the continent.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
In Italy we will see the first serious political test of the parties since the Berlusconi victory which saw the far left and Green Party swept out of Parliament for the first time since the war. Berlusconi launched his new party earlier in the year with a fanfare but the government has disappointed many of its supporters, internal rivalry is disrupting its operations and Berlusconi's personal antics seem to have caught up with him at last.
The weakness of the government, natural disasters and the economic situation are likely to provide the 'perfect' backdrop for a left wing comeback in June. In 2004 the Greens stood on their own slate winning 2 MEPs. At this election the Greens are standing as part of the "Left and Freedom" alliance with a number of socialist parties and appear very confident. With Berlusconi's crisis and the directionless nature of the centre left they are likely to perform very well indeed, a moment that I hope will mean a return of the left's fighting spirit in Italy.
In Germany Die Linke, a fusion of old Communists, left Social Democrats and assorted anti-capitalists will be seeking to entrench its astonishing success at the General Election by sending the maximum number of MEPs to Brussels. Old fashioned socialist politics is back on the agenda and with a rising tide of working class anger it seems that Die Linke is well placed to take advantage of the capitalist meltdown.
Certainly the Labour / Tory coalition government is unlikely to have won much support over this period of uncharacteristic economic instability. Whilst other radical voices on the left and right might be able to tap into the potential of this situation from a distance Die Linke seem to have been able to most deftly position themselves for the current climate.
In France the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) is set to reshape political geography and on its first electoral outing is expected to do extremely well. "One extraordinary opinion poll in March suggested that Besancenot [a leading figure in the NPA] was almost level-pegging with Sarkozy as the most credible politician in France. Asked who is most capable of changing things 38% choose the president and 35% Besancenot. The leader of the main opposition party, the Socialists, got 28%."
Whilst the NPA wont get 35% of the vote at the Euro elections it's likely that they will be bursting onto the political scene in an unprecedented manner. This wont simply be a question of some radical MEPs shaking things up a little, these are representatives of a grassroots movement that look set to make real waves in the context of rising militancy across France.
Likewise in Portugal a resurgent left is likely to perform well. The Unitarian Democratic Coalition (the Greens and the Communist Party) won 7.6% of the vote at the last election and the Left Bloc received 6.4%. They are predicted to continue to improve their poll performance and between them may collect one in five of the votes cast for their radical, progressive alternatives. The Portuguese left is stepping up to today's daunting challenges.
Across Europe people are questioning 'politics as usual' and are beginning to look towards positive alternatives. In the UK whilst some will be looking backwards to UKIP, or even further right, polls are suggesting that the Greens are also picking up strong support from the anti-politics mood.
If that momentum continues it will show that when the electorate turns its back on the main three parties it doesn't have to be a victory for the reactionary and the racist but can be a progressive choice for a more equitable world.