European Parliament Election 2014: Post-mortem (Part 7)

Coming towards the end now, we’ve reached the penultimate part 7. In this part the states under the microscope are Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

18. Slovakia

In terms of general politics Slovakia has been one of those states that have been subject to ‘personality’ politics, the popularity of current Prime Minister Robert Fico carried him and his PES affiliated Direction – Social Democracy (SMER-SD) party to an absolute majority in the Slovak national assembly in its elections in 2012. however this popularity looks like it is now on the decline with his personal loss in the presidential election held only back in April, this puts Slovak politics in something of a flux with a question as to whether socialist forces might be able to take advantage of that situation to grow their base of support. Of those forces the primary one is the Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS), they don’t take full membership of the Party of the European Left (PEL), however do take observer membership. They issued a statement back in 2005 criticising the political theses of the 1st conference of PEL, it’s brief and high on the use of Karl Marx’ legacy and if I’m being honest not fundamentally unreasonable in it’s points. In addition to the KSS there is the Dawn party, which I understand to be a splinter group of KSS and have read, though can’t confirm, that it’s an orthodox outfit based around the personality of one person in one town.

The results of the election give us the answer to the question posed above, the KSS didn’t manage to grow at the expense of SMER-SD, indeed they actually decreased in support with only 1.51% of the vote, down 0.14% from the 1.65% they achieved in 2009. For the Dawn party the result was 0.49%, they didn’t contest the previous election. Collectively KSS and Dawn achieved 2.0%, a collective improvement of 0.35%, if we wanted to look at it that way. On the point of Fico’s declining popularity, SMER-SD managed only 24.09%, a decline of 7.92% on their 2009 result and nowhere near the 44.41% that gave them an overall majority in the 2012 parliamentary election, with that kind of declining popularity you’d wonder if an earlier than expected general election might be on the cards, though looking at the KSS result, I doubt it would be to their benefit.

By the by, I’ve linked to the KSS’ website above, for anyone intrepid enough go to the bottom of the homepage, I found what was there quite amusing.

19. Slovenia

The first of the former Yugoslav republics to seceded from Yugoslavia, Slovenia appears to be at the forefront of rebuilding a more positive socialist force. In recent months Slovenia has seen the creation of a new political party and a new political alliance. The Initiative for Democratic Socialism (IDS), who are affiliated to PEL, were founded in March and immediately joined into an alliance with the Democratic Labour Party (DSD) and the Sustainable Development of Slovenia (TRS) party. This alliance is called the United Left (ZL) and not only did it contest the European election but will contest the parliamentary election called for the 13th of July and the local elections scheduled for October. The early parliamentary elections comes after Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek lost the leadership of the ALDE affiliated Positive Slovenia party to that party’s previous leader Zoran Jankovic, who had been sidelined after allegations about the unexplained sources of his income in 2012. Bratusek has gone on since the European elections to form her own breakaway party. From allegations of dodgy incomes to convictions for dodgy incomes, in 2013 EPP affiliated Slovenian Democratic Party’s (SDS) leader Janez Jansa was convicted of bribery in a 2006 arms deal, he was sentenced to 2-years in jail, something he has only just started and which the EPP cried foul about.

In terms of the actual result, ZL managed to achieve 5.47%, well above the 4% threshold for the parliamentary election but below the natural threshold inherent in a d’Hondt method election with only 8 seats on offer, with 88 on offer in the parliamentary election on the 13th of July, you’d think that ZL should be in with a shout of getting representation. They probably weren’t expecting to come from nothing to get an MEP, so not actually making it there probably isn’t something they’ll be shocked by, though I’d imagine they were heartened by the better than expected result, indeed a Ninamedia poll released in April had them getting only 0.3% of the vote. A Mediana poll released in June had them at 2.7%, Mediana didn’t poll in the direct run-up to the European elections so it’s unknown whether they have the same underrating of ZL as Ninamedia had. That Mediana poll itself is interesting for another fact, legal eagle Miro Cerar has started a ‘centre-left’ party and appears to be attracting a substantial amount of support, proving if anything that personality politics is still alive in Slovenia. Outside of the result for ZL, the surprise result was the 10.33% and 1 seat achieved by the Verjemem! party which has affiliated to the EGP, they didn’t figure in pre-election polling and mysteriously haven’t featured in post-election polling either, though might be something of a dark-horse in the parliamentary election. The stench of corruption which hangs over Janez Jansa hasn’t prevented the SDS getting 24.78% of the vote and 3 of the 8 seats available, d’Hondt showing it’s fallibilities with those 3 seats accounting for 37.5% of the total, a seat ‘bonus’ of 12.72%, more than double the entire vote for ZL.

20. Spain

Spain has been one of the EU member states most affected by the economic attitudes of the prevailing liberal ideology of the ruling classes, both in terms of the loose regulations that lead to its banking crisis and in the austerity policies that they recommend as the solution. The initial crisis happened with the PES affiliated Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) in power  with the reaction by the Spanish public taking a multifaceted form; PSOE were ousted from power in the November 2011 general election that returned to power the EPP affiliated Partido Popular (PP) headed up by Mariano Rajoy, a man fond of his Cigar chomping if my memory of euronews broadcasts doesn’t fail me; in the same election Izquierda Unida (IU), who are a quasi-party group formed around the Communist Party of Spain (PCE), managed to nearly double its vote from 3.8% to 6.9%, increasing its contingent in the Spanish lower house from 2 to 11; additionally, nationalist groups like the Republican Left of Catalonia and the Basque Amaiur coalition managed to increase their support and number of seats, indeed Amaiur managed to secure 7 seats; the final, and probably most interesting aspect was the emergence of the 15-M, a protest movement with a strong direct action and anti-party sensibility that took to the streets in May 2011 and thereafter to voice opposition to austerity and the political establishment in general. A lack of belief in PSOE’s opposition and dwindling support for PP characterise current Spanish politics in its general, though with the addition factor of separatism growing in the autonomous communities of Catalonia and the Basque Country with strong regionalist feelings in others. In addition to the PP government of Mariano Rajoy facing a lack of popularity over its economic policies, there is the factor of the PP’s conservatism rubbing up against a Spanish population whose youth is significantly more enlightened that the older generations, consequently there is strong opposition and dismay at the attempt by PP to roll back on abortion legislation, however PP appear to be conceding at least some ground on this subject, presumably in an attempt to alleviate their growing unpopularity. All of this forms the backdrop under which the election to divide up the 54 seats allocated to Spain in European Parliament will be conducted.

The groups of interest for this election fall into four camps. The first is La Izquierda Plural (IP), a coalition of Izquierda Unida (IU), the Initiative for Catalonia Greens (ICV), the Galician nationalist party ANOVA, United and Alternative Left (EUiA) of Catalonia and a few other groups. The second is Podemos, formed out of the 15-M only three months before the election they are a group to watch in terms of what kind of coherent future can be built from a diffuse protest movement; the third camp is the progressive nationalist camp with Los Pueblos Deciden (LPD), who include amongst their number the EH Bildu coalition from the Basque Country, whose constituent parts were part of the Amaiur coalition mentioned above and who have connections to the old Batasuna party which was the political wing of the militant separatist group ETA, an example of these connections include Laura Mintegi, a former Batasuna candidate who was the EH Bildu candidate for President of the Basque government; in addition to Bildu the Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG) is also participating in this coalition. The fourth camp is the independent parties that choose to contest the election outside of coalitions, something which is electorally unwise for entities that aren’t that large since Spain elects all 54 of its MEPs nationally, the only one of these groups that will be mentioned will be the Communist Party of the People’s of Spain (PCPE).

As far as results go, Spain proved to be one of the strongest regions for parties and coalitions likely to affiliate to the GUE/NGL group, Izquierda Plural managed to increase its vote from 3.7% in 2009 and 2 seats to 10.03% this time around, which delivered them 6 seats. Those 6 seats were divided up between constituent groups in the list with IU getting 4, ICV getting 1 and ANOVA getting 1; this compares to 2009 when the 2 seats were divided one a piece between IU and ICV. It’s worth noting at this point that ICV are affiliated to the EGP and choose to sit with them rather than with GUE/NGL. Podemos came out of nowhere in this campaign to get 7.98% and 5 seats, they’ve chosen to sit with GUE/NGL. The Podemos result is an interesting example as to how political movements can stump opinion polling firms as before the election the highest score for Podemos was 3.5% which was received from the pollster GAD3 in mid-May, they’ve since scored as high as 15.1% in a GESOP poll released in June, they appear to be eating in IU’s support as they dropped from in 11.5% in the previous GESOP poll to 8.1% in this one. It remains to be seen whether Podemos can stick together as a political entity as the anti-politics mood that helped in its founding clashes with the real political need for internal coherence, indeed if this article from El Páis is to be believed it seems currently to be quite diffuse. The LPD coaltion secured 2.08% of the vote and 1 seat in Brussels, that seat went to EH Bildu who are to sit with GUE/NGL; the result represents an increase of 0.96% on the result secured by the ‘Internationalist Initiative’ in 2009, that coalition included many of the same outfits or their predecessors that are represented in LPD. Finally the result for PCPE was 0.19%, an increase of 0.09% on their score from 2009; forward, but not by much, still an increase probably heartened them.

Outside of these results for GUE/NGL affiliated parties and their electoral allies an interesting result was the 23.7% result for the EPDD coalition in Catalonia, the coalition includes amongst its members the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) who are affiliated to the EFA, sitting in the combined EGP-EFA group in Brussels; the coalition achieved a total of 4.01% state-wide along with 2 seats. If this result were repeated in the next Catalan parliamentary election it would make the ERC the largest party in the Catalan parliament, displacing the ALDE affiliated Convergence and Union group of current Catalan president Artur Mas. In addition to the rise of the ERC, there has also been the emergence in Catalonia of anti-capitalist independence party the Popular Unity Candidates (CUP), which chose not to participate in the European elections, they currently have 3 seats in the Catalan Parliament and are heading towards an increase.

And that concludes part 7 of this series, as always corrects are welcome. We are heading towards part 8, the final part, which will contain an overview of the results presented in a list.

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.