European elections: The center-left struggles to curb the push from the right

Image source, Andreas Solaro/AFP

Comment on the photo, Spaniard Pedro Sanchez joined Italian centre-left leader Elie Schlein in Rome ahead of the campaign

  • author, Laura Josey
  • Role, BBC News

“The very soul of Europe is in danger,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez warned fellow centre-left European politicians who gathered in Rome ahead of a tough EU election campaign.

At stake was how to halt the seemingly unstoppable rise of right-wing and far-right parties in the European Parliament vote, which begins Thursday in the Netherlands and continues in all 27 EU member states until Sunday.

Only four EU member states have center-left or left-wing parties in their governments, and recent performances at the ballot box have been poor. The omens of the coming days are not good.

The European left is in “bad health,” says Professor Marc Lazar of Sciences Po in Paris and Louis University in Rome, the result of a steady decline that began in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The center-left in the European Union constitutes the second largest group in the outgoing European Parliament. Known as the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, they are expected, at best, to cling to their 139 seats in the 720-seat parliament.

It is Europe’s right-wing parties that blow the wind, and any success achieved by the center left is likely to be offset by losses elsewhere.

Socialists and Democrats are expected to take the lead in only four countries Sweden, Denmark, Lithuania and Malta. Even then, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s Social Democratic Party of Denmark is bracing for a significant decline in support.

Image source, Pontus Lundal/TT News Agency/AFP

Comment on the photo, Danish President Mette Frederiksen and German President Olaf Scholz are among a handful of centre-left European leaders

Their conservative opponents are expected to outpace Spain’s Socialists led by Pedro Sanchez and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats – Germany’s Christian Democrats and Spain’s Popular Party.

Schulz’s party has been steadily losing support since winning the 2021 federal election, and is now in a battle for second place with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Pedro Sánchez is in a better position due to the controversial amnesty agreement he concluded with Catalan pro-independence parties. But that also made him vulnerable to criticism from the People’s Party and the far-right Vox party.

For some left-wing opposition parties, the situation could end up much worse, as they face far-right overreach.

Centre-left parties have shifted in recent years away from traditional socialist ideas and towards more liberal policies, so they are now “very similar” to the centre-right, which is “more like the centre-right”, says Paul Zirka, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. It is equally pro-European, with similar positions on economic and climate policies.

The latest surveys indicate that most Europeans consider poverty, public health, the economy, defense and security of the EU among their most important concerns.

While the SPD manifesto promises to address these very issues, Professor Mark Lazar says it is too late for many voters, because the left failed to protect them when they had the chance.

Image source, Telmo Pinto/NoorPhoto

Comment on the photo, Left-wing, pro-European voters often felt alienated by the anti-capitalist, Eurosceptic Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Then the left began to champion issues such as gender, gay rights, or green politics: very popular among young urban voters, but less popular among working-class families.

“In many European countries, the center left is now seen as the wealthy progressive elite in the cities,” Zirka says.

Some left-wing parties have noticed this, combining progressive and conservative policies.

Danish Social Democrats It has taken a hard line on immigration, while Romania: Social Democratic Party The combination of conservative values ​​and Eurosceptic tendencies with center-left economic policies.

Migration has shaped and defined the European political debate over the past decade, and many “old left” voters have looked elsewhere for solutions.

France’s National Rally, led by Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella, has been more successful than most other parties in attracting voters with its anti-immigration platform. The National Front Party is far ahead of any of its competitors in these elections.

A French study conducted shortly after the 2022 French elections showed that 42% of working-class men and women cast their votes for Marine Le Pen. One National Front mayor said the left “forgot its basic principles when it supported minorities rather than workers – while we defended them.”

across the Alps, Italian Democratic Party (PD) He has struggled to find a coherent line to counter the anti-immigrant message spread by Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brotherhood of Italy movement. It is still divided internally and in the opposition, but it should come second to foreign direct investment in these elections.

Image source, David Costa/AFP

Comment on the photo, Raphaël Glucksmann has achieved a significant lead in French opinion polls

Socialists in France Now we have a new champion in Raphael Glucksmann, who emerged as a moderate pro-European leader after the collapse of the coalition of left-wing parties in the French elections two years ago.

Moderates have long felt alienated by the anti-capitalist and Eurosceptic Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who for years was the most prominent figure on the French left.

Glucksmann, a member of the European Parliament since 2019, has no hope of catching Jordan Bardella’s National Rally party, but is competing for second place with the centrist Renewal list backed by President Emmanuel Macron.

Social Democratic Party of Sweden It is scheduled to receive 30% of the vote in June, and remains the largest party in Sweden, despite the presence of a centre-right coalition in government.

But these are just nit-picking of a movement that once dominated the European scene.

In the past ten years, the EU has witnessed events that would have strengthened the traditionally pro-European left – from Covid-19 to the war in Ukraine and the fight against climate change – once the importance of a common European response became clear. .

The current cost of living crisis could also be an opportunity for left-wing politicians to demand stronger welfare measures.

Commentators believe that part of the problem may be due to today’s leaders.

Olaf Scholz has faced accusations of indecision on Ukraine, while Italy’s centre-left leader, Elie Schlein, has been criticized for being too divisive.

“For a long time now, we have not seen great left-wing leaders like Tony Blair, Gerhard Schröder or François Mitterrand,” says Professor Lazar. “Now, when we think about driving in Europe, we think about that [Hungary’s Viktor] urban, [Italy’s Giorgia] melonie, [France’s Marine] “Le Pen.”

That’s why Raphael Glucksmann in France has attracted so much attention from voters in a relatively short time, and why his supporters promise to be the “big surprise” of this election.

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