Is Europe a social democracy

What are Europe's social democrats doing wrong?

Portugal: the great bright spot

If European Social Democrats are seeking consolation these days, they should look to Portugal. There the social democrat António Costa even increased his majority in the October election: by four percentage points to now 36 percent. However, the party names in Portugal are confusing: Costa's party is the Socialist Party, but it is oriented towards social democracy. The next strongest opposition party is of all things the Social Democratic Party, which is, however, considered to be conservative-liberal. It crashed significantly in the election. Prime Minister Costa was re-elected with a mixture of caring social policy and solid budget management:

Election winner Costa: re-elected with solid budgetary policy

The public finances of the former EU problem child have been consolidated; in spite of this, or because of it, the economy grew. Now Costa wants to raise the minimum wage from 600 to 750 euros and introduce job promotion measures for young people.

France: nothing but misery

Hardly any other country stands for the decline of European social democracy like France. The party continues to confidently call itself "socialist" on the left and not social democratic. Its high point was the time with its President François Mitterrand from 1981 to 1995. Long after that, the Parti Socialiste was one of the big ones. As recently as 2012, she still had an absolute majority in the National Assembly and, with François Hollande, was again the President of the Republic. Then the crash: in the 2017 presidential election, your candidate got just over six percent of the vote and was in fifth place. In the European elections, she even slipped to sixth place. So far there is nothing to suggest a recovery.

Poland: spring awakening

A lot is happening on the Polish left after having lived a shadowy existence for the past four years. The left is currently divided into three groups: the SLD (Federation of Democratic Left), "Wiosna" (the spring) and "Lewica Razem" ("Left Together"). As an electoral alliance, the three won 12.6 percent of the vote in the parliamentary elections in October - a remarkable success because in 2015 the SLD failed to meet the eight percent threshold in an alliance with other smaller left-wing parties. The SLD is the largest of the three parties and is classically oriented towards social democracy. Its predecessor was the "Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland", which in turn emerged from the communist PVAP in the early 1990s. "Wiosna" was founded in 2019 by the charismatic left-liberal MEP Robert Biedron.

The left in Poland is alive: Robert Biedron when founding the "Wiosna" party in February

In the European elections in May, she won six percent of the vote. "Lewica Razem" is a party of young, metropolitan voters. It is based on the ideas of Scandinavian social democracy. The face of the party, the young Sejm MP Adrian Zandberg, grew up in Scandinavia himself. In the 2015 parliamentary elections, "Razem" received 3.6 percent of the vote. What the three parties have in common is a pro-European, social and secular orientation.

Romania: fraudulent labeling

There was one last riot in November. Then came the last rude awakening of the Romanian Social Democrats for the time being. The then head of the PSD, Viorica Dancila, lost miserably in an attempt to win the presidential election against the liberal incumbent Klaus Johannis. The successor organization to the Romanian Communist Party, which had never been reformed and was only labeled Social Democratic, had once again not counted on the concerns of the workers, but drew the card of populist promises and nationalism. That went well for a long time. The party had also pretended to other European countries that it had successfully brought together modern social democracy and the communist party. In Romania, she controlled the respective government coalitions for decades with brief interruptions. Dancila's failure came as no surprise. The voters had already punished the party in the European elections in May. They rejected the attempt by the PSD to control the judiciary and minorities and to undermine the rule of law, as well as the fraudulent labeling of the PSD, which halved its electorate to around 20 percent in just three years. Now the PSD is fighting for survival.

Denmark: Success through tough asylum policy

Probably no other social democratic party in Europe is pursuing such a hard line in asylum policy. Exactly that, together with a classic left-wing social policy, became their success. Before the most recent election in June, Denmark's Social Democrats under Mette Frederiksen called for asylum procedures outside of Europe; Development aid should be made dependent on the willingness of the countries to take back rejected asylum seekers.

Denmark's social democracy relies on a tough asylum policy

This enabled Frederiksen to win back many Danes who had previously voted for the right-wing populist People's Party. The People's Party, however, fell dramatically from around 21 to nine percent. The former SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel then advised the German comrades to follow this path in Germany as well, but met with some violent rejection from his party friends.

Great Britain: end of a beacon of hope

Of all people, the now 70-year-old Jeremy Corbyn was the Labor Party's great hope a few years ago. Young people in particular were enthusiastic about the redistribution ideas of the old left. Labor saw a wave of new entrants at the time. But the dream is over. The reason is the Brexit: Corbyn always had reservations about the EU, it is too capitalist for him. That is why he never made a particularly strong stand for Europe in the Brexit debate. Now, shortly before the new election on December 12th, he is still not committed. Many voters ask, what does Jeremy Corbyn stand for on the nation’s most important issue? Those who want to stay in tend to vote for the Liberal Democrats or the Greens; those who want to get out tend to vote for the Conservatives. Many who want to remain a left-wing social policy AND in the EU have difficulties with Labor.

Austria: Discussion of direction

Actually, things should have gone better for Austria's social democrats in the opposition. The government made up of the conservative ÖVP and right-wing populist FPÖ fell apart in the summer after FPÖ boss Heinz-Christian Strache showed himself to be susceptible to corruption in the Ibiza affair. In addition, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, the first woman at the top, brought a breath of fresh air into the traditional SPÖ party. But the Social Democrats continue to weaken.

SPÖ leader Rendi-Wagner did not manage to help her party to a victory

While the conservative ÖVP of Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was able to gain further gains in the National Council election in September and the Greens even gained a lot, the SPÖ again lost almost six percentage points and landed at around 21 percent: it was the worst election result it has had since the war import. No wonder that a discussion of direction is now breaking out among the Social Democrats. The media manager Gerhard Zeiler, an important social democratic voice without an official office, is campaigning, among other things, for a clearer positioning on migration. As little as the right to asylum should be undermined, the state must insist that immigrants learn German and respect European values ​​such as equality between men and women, he advises.