Spain Better Get Used to Multiparty Democracy

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez greets Albert Rivera, leader of the Citizens party, outside his residence in Madrid, October 16
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez greets Albert Rivera, leader of the Citizens party, outside his residence in Madrid, October 16 (La Moncloa)

With no party or bloc winning a majority in Spain’s Congress on Sunday, the country’s politicians need to finally come to grips with coalition politics.

The center-left Socialists and center-right People’s Party are used to alternating in power. They split 80 percent of the votes as recently as 2011. But Spain hasn’t been a two-party system since 2015, when Podemos (“We Can”) on the far left and the Ciudadanos (“Citizens”) on the center-right took one out of three votes between them.

This pattern has now been confirmed in four elections in as many years and still the old parties continue as though nothing has changed. Read more “Spain Better Get Used to Multiparty Democracy”

Romney-to-Clinton Voters Prefer Biden

Joe Biden
Former American vice president Joe Biden campaigns in Des Moines, Iowa, August 8 (Gage Skidmore)

In the six states that could decide the outcome of the 2020 election in America, Joe Biden outpolls his Democratic rivals, in particular among minority voters and white voters with a college degree.

The New York Times reports that middle-income voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin prefer the relatively centrist former vice president over the more left-wing Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The head-to-head figures against Donald Trump are mostly within the margin of error and probably not predictive a year out from the election.

But they do give Democratic primary voters vital information as they make up their minds about whom to nominate. Read more “Romney-to-Clinton Voters Prefer Biden”

Portugal’s Costa Cruising to Victory on Back of Strong Economy

Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal meets with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in Berlin, February 5, 2016
Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal meets with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in Berlin, February 5, 2016 (Bundesregierung)

Portugal’s António Costa is almost certain to win reelection on Sunday. Polls give his Socialist Party in the range of 37 percent support against 26-28 percent for the center-right Social Democrats.

Costa won’t have enough for an absolute majority, but he is expected to continue to govern with the support of the far left. Read more “Portugal’s Costa Cruising to Victory on Back of Strong Economy”

Happy Little Country

View of the Netherlands from the air
View of the Netherlands from the air (Skitterphoto)

The Dutch are happier than ever. Austerity is over. The immigration crisis has receded from the headlines. The government this week announced €3 billion in tax cuts and is planning a long-term investment fund worth up to €50 billion. Support for anti-establishment parties is down. Just 16 percent want to leave the EU anymore. Read more “Happy Little Country”

Democrats Are Closer to the Center Than Republicans

Street view in San Francisco, California, April 7, 2010
Street view in San Francisco, California, April 7, 2010 (Jerome Vial)

In a recent column, I argued Democrats in the United States have moved to the left but Republicans have moved farther to the right. The former, at least in their policies, are still more centrist than most center-left parties in Europe while the latter now have more in common with far-right populists than they do with Britain’s Conservative Party and Germany’s Christian Democrats.

Centrists (myself included) still worry that Democrats might become too left-wing for voters in the middle — who, the turnout fantasies of partisans on either side notwithstanding, tend to decide the outcome of national elections. Read more “Democrats Are Closer to the Center Than Republicans”

Spanish Center-Right Rethinks Appeasement of Far Right

Jordi Cañas and Albert Rivera of the Spanish Citizens party talk in Madrid, August 6, 2013
Jordi Cañas and Albert Rivera of the Spanish Citizens party talk in Madrid, August 6, 2013 (Ciudadanos/Jordi Esteban)

Spain’s center-right parties are having second thoughts about cozying up to the far right.

Before the general election in April, the liberal Citizens and the conservative People’s Party ruled out a deal with Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’ Socialists. That meant the only alternative to his pact with the far-left Podemos was a right-wing coalition with the support of the nativist Vox. Voters preferred the former.

They once again gave the Socialists a plurality in European and local elections last month.

The Citizens now say they are willing to consider coalitions with the Socialists at the regional level under “exceptional” circumstances. They also reject more deals with Vox such as the one they struck in Andalusia last year.

The People’s Party, which as recently as eight years ago won 45 percent of the votes, has also repudiated its Vox-friendly strategy after falling to 17-20 percent support in the last two elections. Read more “Spanish Center-Right Rethinks Appeasement of Far Right”

Rutte Claims Center in Dutch Midterm Elections

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte joins a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, January 20, 2016
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte joins a debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, January 20, 2016 (European Parliament)

Two years ago, the Netherlands’ center-right prime minister, Mark Rutte, defeated the far right by adopting some of its policies on immigration while rejecting its divisive rhetoric.

In the run-up to this year’s provincial and Senate elections, he is claiming the center ground instead. Read more “Rutte Claims Center in Dutch Midterm Elections”

Macron Doesn’t Need to Appease the Far Right

Xavier Bettel Emmanuel Macron Justin Trudeau
French president Emmanuel Macron speaks with Xavier Bettel and Justin Trudeau, the prime ministers of Luxembourg and Canada, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, May 25, 2017 (NATO)

The worst argument against French president Emmanuel Macron’s latest EU reform push — made, among others, by the Russian-born Leonid Bershidsky, who writes for Bloomberg View from Germany, and the Dutch political commentator Peter van Nuijsenburg — is that it only provides ammunition for rival parties opposed to more European integration.

There are fair criticism to be made. Bershidsky also argues that Macron’s call for a European “renaissance” largely consists of adding more EU agencies and that what the bloc really needs is a shared Franco-German vision.

But the idea that less ambitious proposals, or no proposals at all, would appease the Euroskeptics is wrong. Read more “Macron Doesn’t Need to Appease the Far Right”

Macron Fights His Way Back

Austrian chancellor Christian Kern and French president Emmanuel Macron visit Salzburg, August 23, 2017
Austrian chancellor Christian Kern and French president Emmanuel Macron visit Salzburg, August 23, 2017 (BKA/Andy Wenzel)

Commentators outside France have been predicting Emmanuel Macron’s downfall from the beginning of his presidency.

My own view throughout has been that unpopularity is unlikely to keep Macron up at night. He has been reforming France so thoroughly and at such a fast pace that he was bound to make enemies everywhere. He has a long-enough mandate (five years) to see his reforms bear fruit. And because both the center-left and center-right are in disarray, there is no strong opposition against him.

That threatened to change this winter, when opponents of a fuel-tax increase donned fluorescent yellow vests and took to the streets. Suddenly reactionary France had a movement. Polls showed massive support. Macron hastily canceled the tax hike, the first time he had bowed to public pressure. His political obituaries were being rewritten again. Read more “Macron Fights His Way Back”

The Sources of Populist Rage — And What To Do About It

Yellow Vests protest in Avignon, France, December 1
Yellow Vests protest in Avignon, France, December 1 (Sébastien Huette)

Add France to populism’s list of victims.

A year ago, Emmanuel Macron’s election victory was hailed as a setback for the transatlantic reactionary movement that began with Brexit and has since led to Donald Trump in America, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and an anti-EU government in Italy.

The outbreak of nationwide anti-tax protests, which quickly morphed into an anti-government movement, makes clear the same forces that gave us Brexit and Trump live in France.

The consequences could be calamitous. Read more “The Sources of Populist Rage — And What To Do About It”