European Parliament Election 2014: Post-mortem (Part 6)

In part six of my series on the European elections I’ll be covering the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Romania; Malta gets skipped for being a virtual two-party state with neither of those parties being active promoters of socialism, though a second reason here would be that having looked at Maltese election results before I’ve been left with the impression that the Maltese government and media haven’t got a monkeys on how to present data for an STV election in a way that actually makes sense.

14. Netherlands

On a basic level you’d think that the Dutch model of elections of extreme proportionality would offer the opportunity for small socialist groups to thrive, however this hasn’t seemed to have been the case. Indeed going into this election the only party affiliated to GUE/NGL was the Socialist Party (SP), an ex-maoist set up who’ve gone towards social democracy with much gusto since the early 1990’s, though in the context of Dutch politics of the current era that has the potential to seem almost radical in and of itself. For a view on how the SP thinks when it comes to issues of policy we should look no further than the English language manifesto that they issued for the European elections, it contains the sort of stuff you’d expect from a party opposed to Austerity; more jobs, less privatisation and, err, “protection” for small and medium sized enterprises. On that point you’d have to wonder whether or not their is much virtue in being under the cosh of an indigenous bourgeoisie rather than an international one, it’s something I’d think is quite dubious. On the current era of Dutch politics we must consider the growth in popularity of Geert Wilders and his PVV party, an exile from the ALDE affiliated VVD party, Willders has been courting controversy for years with his views on Immigration and Islam, however this recent outburst against Moroccans appears to have dented his image more than anything that he’s said before. Maybe a case of the vague being tolerable while the specific is intolerable?

The results themselves proved to be quite humdrum with the SP increasing their vote by 2.5% to 9.6% from their 2009 result of 7.1%. This brought them marginally above the PES affiliated PvdA who achieved a record low of 9.5%, however the tie-up the PvdA had with the EGP affiliated Greenleft party for their surplus votes (Like Finland, the Netherlands allows the linking of otherwise disconnected lists) has meant that the SP have come out of the election with only 2 seats compared to the PvdA’s 3. This result for the SP might be an increase on the previous European election but it is static on the most recent Dutch general election of 2013, considering the large slippage in the PvdA’s vote since then maybe more could and should have been expected. An animal rights party called the Party of the Animals (PvdD), gained ground in this election moving from 3.5% and no seat to 4.2% and one seat. A view at their English language manifesto attests to their close focus on animal welfare to the exclusion of almost everything else. PvdD decided to sit with GUE/NGL during after the election, a decision that has apparently been made due to the loose confederal nature of GUE/NGL.

15. Poland

There is little to actually say about Poland, I had toyed with excluding it but decided that it would be better to explain the meagre interests that exist there. The most prominent party represented anything to do with socialism is the Polish Labour Party (PPP), variously and confusingly described as socialist, social democratic, Marxist and Trotskyist; the accuracy of these last two in particular is something I’m not able to ascertain. Theoretically the PPP were to run under the banner of Europa plus, a coalition mostly consisting of liberals and S&D aspirants, however I can’t see their name listed beside any of the candidates in Europa plus’ lists, they might be contesting as independents in the list so I’ll still be giving the result for Europa plus. Another party of interest is the Polish Socialist Party (PPS), which was founded in 1989 as a spiritual continuation of the pre-world war two party of that name, I can’t attest to their socialism but I’ll include them anyway. They are running 5 candidates under the “Zieloni” list, which is formed mostly around the Polish Green party.

On the results, for Europa plus the result was a disappointment as they failed to reach the 5% threshold needed to partake in the distribution of seats in Poland, they came in with 3.58% of the vote, well below the 10% achieved in the Polish general election of 2011 by it’s main component “Your Movement”. For the Zieloni list, they only managed to achieve 0.23% of the vote. The biggest surprise of this election came from the Polish far-right with the Congress of the New Right gaining 7.15% of the vote and 4 seats. The party is headed up by Janusza Korwin-Mikke whose opinions on subjects such as suffrage for women and rape are enough to place him well beyond what most people would consider to be outrageous.  So as people can see, not exactly much to be thinking about on the subject of Poland, hopefully that won’t be the same if I choose to do this again in 2019.

16. Portugal

The diversity of socialist forces in Portugal is quite comparable to Greece, however in the case of Portugal it isn’t so diverse that I’ll fail to cover every group out there. At the last EU elections in 2009 the largest party of note was the Left Bloc (BE), who are affiliated to the Party of the European Left and who achieved 10.72% of the vote in that election. BE was founded in 1999 as a merger of several smaller groups including the People’s Democratic Union and the Revolutionary Socialist Party (who were affiliated to the reunified FI). The next grouping on the list of results for 2009 was the Democratic Unitarian Coalition (CDU), which is an alliance between the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) and the Ecologist Party “The Greens” (PEV) that has been going since 1987 and which achieved 10.64% in 2009; to avoid confusion with the German Christian Democratic Union I’ll use the abbreviation PCP-PEV to refer to this grouping. Another group of interest is the Maoist Portuguese Workers’ Communist Party (PCTP/MRPP) who got 1.2% of the vote in 2009 and once upon a time included José Manuel Barroso as a member, how times and people change. In addition to these larger groups there is also a few micro outfits like the Socialist Alternative Movement (MAS) who are affiliated to the International Workers’ League – Fourth International, and, the Workers’ Party of Socialist Unity (POUS) who are affiliated to Fourth International (La Vérité). By the by, the website operated by POUS is one of the worst I’ve seen in a long time so I won’t be linking to it. Outside of these groups who you would expect to affiliate to GUE/NGL if elected to the EU Parliament there is the EGP affiliated LIVRE party that was formed by former BE MEP Rui Tavares who left the BE in 2011 and switched allegiance in the Parliament to the EGP. I can’t exactly be certain as the the rational for all this, but this article from Portuguese newspaper Noticias suggests frictions between Tavares and BE heavyweight Francisco Louçã. On the subject of Francisco Louçã, back in December he has this article in Transform! Europe on the struggle against austerity, an interesting read if you’re looking to get a view of what the main figures of BE are thinking.

The results themselves were quite mixed although not that unpredictable considering the results of the 2011 general election in Portugal with BE falling back from the heady heights they achieved in 2009. The 10.72%, which was accompanied by 3 seats, they got in the European election in 2009 was followed up with a score of 9.81% in the general election that followed in September of that year. However this stint of success didn’t last and they found themselves back down to 5.17% in the general election of 2011, a result that along with the arrival of LIVRE onto the political scene presaged the result this year. They came with only 4.56%, enough to see them retain only 1 of those 3 seats they got at the previous election. For the PCP-PEV the results were much better with an increase from the 10.64% and 2 seats of 2009 to 12.69% and 3 seats now; for a look at how the PCP view these results and the political situation in general there is this statement issued by their central committee. The consequence of this for the GUE/NGL group was the return to the 5 MEPs from Portugal that they enjoyed prior to Rui Tavares’ defection in 2011. For the Smaller groups, the PCTP/MRPP improved on their previous result of 1.2% with a new result of 1.67%, not enough to get them into the mix for seats, but an improvement they must be happy with. MAS, having not run before, managed 0.38% of the vote. POUS, having received 0.15% in 2009, moved backwards with only 0.11% this time around.

Other results of note include Rui Tavares’ party LIVRE flopping with only 2.18% of the vote, not enough for him to retain his seat, though I’d wonder how many votes he managed to pilfer off BE? The Earth Party, which is a right-wing green party, were the real surprise result in Portugal coming out of nowhere to increase their vote from 0.67% in 2009 to 7.15% this time around, winning them 2 seats; absolutely bizarre!

17. Romania

There isn’t exactly much to say about Romania, the poisonous legacy of it’s recent Stalinist past has made it a tough area for socialism with no socialist leaning parties contesting the previous European elections in 2009. This time around however the Socialist Alternative Party (PAS) are contesting the election. They’re affiliated to the Party of the European Left and were formed in 2003 out of another party called the Socialist Party of Labour (PSM) which decided to dissolve itself into the PES affiliated Social Democratic Party in that year. I won’t faff about here, PAS  got 0.17%, low but still an improvement on the 0.02% they got in the Romanian Parliamentary election in 2012.

Of more interest was the strongish 6.21% and 2 seats received by the “People’s Movement Party” who are associated with embattled Romanian president Traian Băsescu, whose brother Mircea is under investigation for accepting a €250,000 bride from an organised crime boss. You’d wonder at that 6.21%, at least I would anyway.

And that’s the end of part six of my series, if anyone were to spot errors then do feel free to correct me.