European Elections: Centre-Left Struggles to Stave Off Right-wing Rise

image source, Andreas SOLARO/AFP

image caption, Spain’s Pedro Sánchez joined Italian centre-left leader Elli Schlein in Rome ahead of the campaign.

  • author, Laura Cosey
  • stock, BBC News

“The very soul of Europe is at stake,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez warned fellow European centre-left politicians gathered in Rome ahead of a tough EU election campaign.

At stake is how to stem the unstoppable rise of far-right and far-right parties in the European Parliament vote, which begins in the Netherlands on Thursday and continues in all 27 EU member states until Sunday.

Only four EU member states have centre-left or left-wing parties in government and recent performances at the ballot box have been poor. The omens for the coming days are not good.

As a result of the steady decline that began in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the European left is in “poor health,” says Marc Lazar, a professor of science at Louis University of Paris and Rome.

The EU’s centre-left is the second largest group in the outgoing European Parliament. Known as the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), they are expected to retain their 139 seats in the 720-seat parliament.

Europe’s parties on the right have the wind in their sails, and any gains the center-left makes will be offset by losses elsewhere.

His is one of four countries out of 27 member states led by centre-left or left-wing parties. Spain, Germany and Malta Others are

image source, Pontus LUNDAHL/TT News Agency/AFP

image caption, Denmark’s Mette Frederiksen and Germany’s Olaf Scholes are two of the few center-left European leaders.

Spain’s Socialists under Pedro Sánchez and German Chancellor Olaf Scholes’ Social Democrats are poised to be pounced on by their conservative opponents – the Christian Democrats in Germany and the People’s Party (PP) in Spain.

Mr Scholes’ party has continued to lose support since winning the 2021 federal elections and is now locked in a second-place battle with the far-right AfD party.

Pedro Sánchez is in better shape thanks to a controversial amnesty deal he struck with pro-independence Catalan parties. But it also opened him up to criticism from the PP and far-right Vox.

Things could end badly for some opposition parties on the left, as they face being overtaken by the far right.

Center-left parties have moved away from traditional socialist ideas and towards more liberal policies in recent years, so they are now “very similar” to the center-right, he says. Equally pro-European, with similar positions on economic policies and climate.

Recent surveys show that most Europeans consider poverty, public health, the economy and the safety and security of the EU to be among their top concerns.

While the S&D’s manifesto promises to address these issues, Professor Mark Lazar says it’s too late for many voters because the left failed to protect them when they had the chance.

image source, Delmo Pinto/NurPhoto

image caption, Pro-European voters on the left often felt alienated by the anti-capitalist Eurosceptic Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

The left then began championing issues such as gender, LGBT rights or green policies: popular among young urban voters, less so among working-class families.

“In many European countries, the centre-left is seen as the wealthy progressive elite of the cities,” argues Mr Jerga.

Some left-wing parties have focused on combining progressive and conservative policies.

Social Democrats of Denmark They have taken a tough stance on migration Social Democrats of Romania Mix conservative values ​​and Eurosceptic tendencies with centre-left economic policies.

Migration has shaped and defined European political debate for the past decade and many “old left” voters have looked elsewhere for solutions.

France’s National Rally, under Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bartella, has been more successful than most in attracting voters with its anti-immigration platform. RN is far ahead of its competitors in this poll.

A French survey conducted after France’s 2022 elections showed that 42% of working-class men and women voted for Marine Le Pen. An RN mayor said “the left has forgotten its basic principles when it favors minorities over Labor – we protected them”.

Across the Alps, the Italian Democratic Party (PD) Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy (FdI) struggled to find a coherent line to counter the anti-immigration message. It is internally fragmented and in opposition, but should come second to the FdI in these elections.

image source, David Costa/AFP

image caption, Raphael Glucksman has won the French election

It’s not all bad news for the left.

Moderates have long felt alienated by the anti-capitalist Eurosceptic Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who has been the most prominent figure on the French left for years.

MEP since 2019, Mr Glucksman is not confident of capturing Jordan Bardella’s national rally, but he is challenging for second place on the centralized renewal list with the support of President Emmanuel Macron.

Social Democratic Party of Sweden It is set to take 30% of the vote in June, and is the largest party in Sweden despite a centre-right coalition in government.

But these are slim pickings for a movement that once dominated the European scene.

Over the past 10 years, the EU has gone through events that have traditionally had the potential to strengthen the pro-European left – from Covid-19 to the war in Ukraine and the fight against climate change – as the importance of a collective European response became clear. .

Likewise, the current cost-of-living crisis may have been an opportunity for left-wing politicians to argue for stronger welfare measures.

Part of the problem may lie with today’s leaders, commentators believe.

Olaf Scholz has faced accusations of appeasement over Ukraine, while Italy’s centre-left leader Elly Schlein has been criticized as too divisive.

“For a long time now, we haven’t seen great left-wing leaders like Tony Blair, Gerhard Schröder or François Mitterrand,” Professor Lazarus argues. “Now, when we think of leadership in Europe, we think [Hungary’s Viktor] Orphan, [Italy’s Giorgia] melon, [France’s Marine] pen.”

That’s why Raphaël Glucksmann in France has attracted so much interest from voters in a relatively short period of time, and he promised supporters that this election would be a “big, big surprise”.

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