Ever since World War II, European democracy has walked on two legs. That’s why it is regrettable that both in Germany and in France the centre-left is in such a bad shape. The French socialists are knocked out, while the German social-democrats have chosen to be in opposition, in an attempt to resurface again.
In other EU countries, the socialists face problems too. In Austria, the SPÖ is ready to break a long-standing taboo on forming political alliances with the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ).
In Belgium, hit by series of corruption scandals, the socialists in Wallonia are in free-fall. “Socialism never dies!” exclaimed the President of the Socialist Party, Elio Di Rupo, as the drama unfolded. If this is not death, it is certainly a very serious disease.
In many countries the electorate sees no difference regardless of who is in power, the ‘traditional’ socialists, the EPP or both: there is little to choose between their economic policies.
Which is why the left camp is gaining new force and former fringe movements are becoming powerful.
In Belgium, the Party of Workers (PTB/PVDA) is getting stronger. In Spain, Podemos is almost as big as PSOE, judging by the 2016 election results. In Greece, PASOK has been dwarfed by Syriza, and the situation remains unchanged, despite the wear and tear of power. In France, Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s force “La France insoumise” has similarly dwarfed the Socialist Party.
But traditional centre-left voters disappointed by the “mainstream left” are also finding other political options. Some of them have turned to far-right or populist forces, such as Marine Le Pen’s Front National. Many voted for a new political project, Macron’s En Marche, a pro-European centrist force seen by some as the embryo of a new European political family.
A bottom-up change, new ideas and new faces are needed. The European centre-left urgently needs to reinvent itself to remain relevant. Although this may be difficult as the electorate is losing confidence in the current leaders.
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Look out for…
Commissioners meet on Wednesday to discuss the migration package, online threats, and the Schengen area.
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