Political analyst and opinion writer in Amsterdam, formerly Barcelona and New York. Specialized in the politics of the Netherlands and Spain. Founder and editor of the Atlantic Sentinel. Also writes for EUobserver, World Politics Review and Wynia's Week.
After six years, António Costa’s “contraption” has run out of steam.
It is what Portugal’s right-wing opposition dubbed the social democrat’s confidence-and-supply arrangements with the far left. In return for concessions like raising the minimum wage and making schoolbooks free, the Communists and Left Bloc were willing to keep Costa in power.
Costa’s Socialists are eight seats short of a majority in parliament. The Communists and Left Bloc have 29 seats between them.
By not forming a full coalition, Costa could avoid the stigma of governing with extremists while the Communists and Left Bloc could openly criticize him for not raising salaries in the public sector or overturning the labor market reforms of his center-right predecessor.
Over the summer, I wrote here that President Joe Biden’s child benefits — $300 per month for children under the age of 6 and $250 for kids up to the age of 17 — help American parents pay for child care, but don’t make child care less expensive.
When Germany’s Christian Democrats and Social Democrats — who frequently split up to 90 percent of the votes between them during the Cold War era — fell to a combined 50 percent support in the federal election in September, alarm bells went off across the Atlantic.
The New York Times saw “messier politics” and “weaker leadership” ahead. The Washington Post feared a period of “limbo” as a result of Germany’s “Dutchification”. Harold James, a professor at Princeton University, lamented that Germany had acquired “the most destructive features of politics in neighboring countries.” The consequences, he argued, would be “complexity,” “endless negotiations” and “inevitably complicated coalition agreements.” Damon Linker, a columnist for The Week, predicted forming a “stable” government would be “challenging” and “decisive action” more difficult.
Some people never learn. We saw the same reaction after the European elections in 2019, and again when Stefan Löfven lost his parliamentary majority in Sweden this summer. Yet Christian Democrats, Social Democrats and liberals were able to quickly form a working majority in the European Parliament and Löfven remains prime minister.
Germany’s liberals and Greens — who can help either the Christian Democrats or Social Democrats to a majority — have already done a deal between them, clearing the biggest hurdle to a three-party coalition. Negotiations are now underway. Olaf Scholz, the Social Democratic Party leader, could become chancellor in a few weeks. So much for the “limbo” we were told to expect. Read more “Political Fragmentation Hasn’t Weakened Germany”
Italy’s Matteo Salvini tried to be all things to all people, and failed.
The leader of the (formerly Northern) League aspired to become the next Silvio Berlusconi: the uncontested leader of the Italian right. To prove he could govern, he formed a coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and later supported the unity government of Mario Draghi.
But you can’t govern in Italy without making compromises, and that’s not something far-right voters tend to reward. Salvini has oscillated between mock statesmanship and populism, giving his supporters whiplash. Giorgia Meloni’s postfascist Brothers of Italy now threaten to eclipse him. Read more “Sway with Me: How Italy’s Salvini Lost His Credibility”
Six and a half months after they were elected, Dutch lawmakers have finally taken a step closer to forming a coalition government: the same as the last one.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD (of which I am a member), the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and Christian Union were ready to renew their vows after the election in March. The coalition as a whole had gained seats, although the CDA lost four. The center-right parties are aligned on agriculture and EU policy, health care and taxes.
Olaf Scholz has given German social democracy a new lease on life. For the first time in sixteen years, his Social Democratic Party (SPD) — Germany’s oldest — has defeated the center-right Union of Christian Democrats. Support for the SPD went up from 20.5 to 26 percent in the election on Sunday. Still below its pre-reunification heights, when it would routinely win up to 40 percent, but enough to make Scholz the most likely next chancellor.
His counterparts in Portugal and Spain have been equally successful. António Costa was reelected with 36 percent support in 2019. Pedro Sánchez won two elections that year. Both govern with the support of the far left. Four of the five Nordic countries are led by social democrats. The fifth, Norway, soon will be, after Labor won the election two weeks ago.