The Left in Europe is experiencing a serious wobbly moment. During Greece’s elections on June 25 the country’s Left-wing and Left-leaning parties got hammered, as the incumbent conservative government romped home.
A similar thing could happen to Spain’s Left-wing coalition government when the country goes to the polls this month. After the incumbent Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) got mauled in local elections at the end of May, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez called a snap election hoping it might galvanise his party’s voter base and stall his opponents’ momentum.
It may be too late. The total vote for Right-wing parties during May’s elections exceeded that for Left-wing parties, William McGee notes in Spiked.
“There is no evidence that a unified Left would necessarily have the numbers to defeat the Right,” McGee says. “Strikingly, the Left appears to have lost the support of urban areas.”
This predicament comes as Sánchez takes over the rotating leadership of the Council of the European Union — one of the EU’s most important institutions — and at a critical time with the bloc facing innumerable challenges.
The situation sees much talk and fretting among mainstream media about the so-called “march of far-right populists” in Europe.
The rise of the AfD in Germany, alongside Spain’s forthcoming national election potentially resulting in the populist Vox party — who many media insist on calling “far right” — sharing power in a coalition, illustrate how the Left is losing sway, if not disintegrating, in some European countries.
Many looking at these trends in Greece, Germany and Spain will be relieved, if not thrilled that the pendulum is swinging back, seeing it as a much-needed restoration of common sense. They may also feel a frisson of Schadenfreude that the Left has got its just deserts for promoting contentious legislation while not respecting a broader range of opinions.
“Spain has galloped ahead when it comes to progressive policies,” Aitor Hernández-Morales writes in How Spain went woke for Politico. “The once-conservative Catholic country, known around the world as the birthplace of machismo, embraced Scandinavian-style legislation promoting the rights of women and LGBTQ+ people.”
Two signature pieces of progressive legislation came back to haunt Spain’s government during May’s local elections. A sexual consent law that was meant to reinforce consent guidelines also “included a redefinition of sexual aggression that created a loophole slashing jail time for some convicted rapists”.
Another bill on transgender rights allowing anyone over 16 to change their gender identity in the civil registry based on self-affirmation alone was heavily criticised for undermining women and feminist efforts.
Despite the hubris of the Left in recent years, no one is served well by the Left imploding. The Covid-19 experience showed us that governments desperately need to be held to account. During the pandemic there was little functioning opposition as groupthink and a mob mentality took hold — right up to senior governmental level.
Unfortunately, the reaction of the Left to the rise of European populism doesn’t inspire confidence that many politicians will react constructively to the shifting sands of the continent’s political landscape.
The fact that nearly a fifth of German voters “are now willing to vote for a relatively new party which contains many far-Right extremists shows their lack of trust in the established political spectrum,” Katya Hoyer argues in the Spectator.
Our liberal democracies need a functioning Right and Left to counterbalance the potential excesses of the other, lest a delicate balancing act collapses and the political scales tip too far in one direction.
“Assuming the electorate is wrong makes a mockery of the principles on which democracies are built,” Hoyer says.
That principle goes both ways. In 2024, voters around the EU will go to the polls to elect a new European Parliament. Already conservatives are sounding bullish about making significant gains.