A nationalist party riding fears about mass migration to Europe appeared set Sunday to become the big winner in Swiss legislative elections, projections showed, capping a shift to the political right in the small Alpine nation. The anti-immigration Swiss People’s Party appeared set to gain 11 seats and the pro-business Free Democratic Party another three in the lower house of parliament, the National Council, according to the latest figures from state-backed broadcaster RTS. Together, the two leading parties of the right were set to hold 99 seats — just one short of half control of the 200-seat assembly. The result marks a shift from the success of moderate parties in the last election four years ago: The biggest parties of the left and center all lost ground, in particular two Green parties, or held even. The outcome giving the People’s Party nearly 30 percent surpassed poll predictions, while the Social Democrats — the country’s second-largest party — unexpectedly lost support. Final results for the National Council were expected by Monday. The makeup of the upper house, the 46-member Council of States, will be known in three weeks.Full Article: Swiss nationalist party on track to win, projections say - Appeal-Democrat: Europe.
Portugal’s ruling centre-right coalition has retained power in a general election seen as a referendum on its austerity policies, but near-complete results indicated it has lost its absolute majority in parliament. Prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho’s Portugal Ahead coalition took 38.6% of the vote, according to the partial results, against 32.4% the opposition Socialists of former Lisbon mayor Antonio Costa. Costa, who campaigned on a promise of easing some of the painful reforms imposed on western Europe’s poorest country, was quick to concede defeat but ruled out stepping down as party leader. “The Socialist party did not achieve its stated objectives, and I take full political and personal responsibility,” Costa told supporters in the capital. But he added: “I will not be resigning.”Full Article: Portugal election: centre-right coalition retains power but could lose majority | World news | The Guardian.
Germany‘s Social Democrats (SPD) are considering holding a direct ballot of their members to select a candidate to challenge Chancellor Angela Merkel at the next national election set down for 2017. Leading SPD figures said on Wednesday they were open to conducting a plebiscite of the party‘s about 474,000 members to decide on its chancellor candidate. This follows a call by the leader of the SPD‘s youth wing, Johanna Uekermann who told the daily Welt on Wednesday: “Each member must be allowed a say in a primary-type election.” SPD chief Sigmar Gabriel has also indicated recently that the party membership should be allowed to vote if several candidates emerge to head up the election campaign.Full Article: German Social Democrats consider balloting members for top candidate | EUROPE ONLINE.
Denmark goes to the polls on Thursday in a general election which opinion polls suggest is on a knife edge. The centre-left coalition of PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt, and the centre-right opposition led by ex-PM Lars Lokke Rasmussen, appear to be neck and neck. But the pollsters have only canvassed the Danish mainland – and voters in Greenland and the Faroe Islands may decide the vote. Minor issues like a Faroes fishing dispute could influence the result. The islands’ fishing community is still angry at Ms Thorning-Schmidt for barring its boats from Danish ports in a 2013 dispute over alleged overfishing.Full Article: Denmark to vote in close election - BBC News.
Editorials: Europe will watch Finland’s election closely—perhaps for the wrong reasons | The Economist
For a useful corrective to the notion that only sunny optimism can win elections, Charlemagne recommends a visit to Finland. Like sauna-goers vigorously lashing themselves with birch branches, Finnish politicians are lining up to talk their homeland down in the run-up to the general election on April 19th. Juha Sipila, leader of the Centre Party and the most likely next prime minister, talks freely of the need to slash public spending. Antti Rinne, the finance minister and head of the Social Democrats, laments Finland’s dire export performance. The biggest dose of gloom, though, comes from Alex Stubb, the centre-right prime minister. Mr Stubb claims to be an “eternal optimist”, but says that Finland has had a “lost decade” and admits that the coalition he has led since June 2014 has often been a failure.Full Article: Charlemagne: Turning Finnish | The Economist.
Narva, an Estonian town on the Russian border, is tired of hearing it is next. “There simply couldn’t be a repeat of Crimea here,” says Vladislav Ponjatovski, head of a local trade union. Mr Ponjatovski, an ethnic Russian, helped launch a Narva autonomy referendum in 1993. Now he would never consider it. Today’s Estonia offers higher living standards and membership of NATO and the European Union. Nobody in Narva longs to be in Ivangorod, the Russian town over the river. The fear that the Kremlin may test NATO by stirring up trouble in the Baltics haunts the West. Britain’s defence secretary, Michael Fallon, says there is already a “real and present danger”. Russia has violated Baltic airspace and harassed ships in the Baltic Sea. Russian agents crossed the border and kidnapped an Estonian intelligence officer last autumn. The new security environment is “not just bad weather, it’s climate change,” says Lieutenant General Riho Terras, head of the Estonian Defence Forces.Full Article: Estonia’s election: On the border | The Economist.
Lead by Hamburg mayor Olaf Scholz, the city-state’s Social Democrats, the SPD, hope to defend their 2011 election win. With its bustling port and cluster of media and aerospace companies, the port city state has long been a stronghold for the SPD. According to recent polls, however, repeating their absolute majority success of four years ago will be no easy victory, even if they defeat the conservative CDU. Threatening the absolute majority ruling of the SPD are the smaller parties such as the liberal FDP and right-leaning AfD. Taking advantage of renewed fears over the eurozone and Greece’s new anti-austerity government, euroskeptic AfD could now be in with a chance of winning its first seats in a western German state. The party’s success has thus far been limited to eastern Germany where it currently holds seats in three states.Full Article: AfD hopes to hold back SPD absolute majority in Hamburg state election | News | DW.DE | 15.02.2015.
Left Party politician Bodo Ramelow has been chosen as premier by the parliament in the eastern German state of Thuringia. The state now has the first socialist-led government in Germany since reunification in 1990. The state parliament of the eastern German state of Thuringia on Friday elected Bodo Ramelow to head a left-leaning coalition consisting of his Left Party, the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens. A former trade unionist from western Germany, Ramelow has become the first member of his party to become premier of a state.Full Article: Thuringia elects first ever Left Party state premier.
It was supposed to be the Swedish Social Democrats’ triumphant return. But two months after forming a minority coalition government with the Greens, Stefan Lofven, the Social Democratic leader, has been forced to step down as prime minister. The four-party centre-right opposition alliance enlisted the support of the far-right, anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats to vote down his budget, pushing through a budget of its own instead. Mr Lofven might have let the other parties try to form a new government. But instead he plans to call an “extra” election on March 22nd. Such high political drama is rare in Sweden, where advance negotiations before parliamentary votes normally mean the budget passes with little fuss. The only previous special election was in 1958. Social Democratic-led governments, in particular, have usually sat out their four-year terms in an orderly fashion. But Sweden has never before had to contend with a far-right party that enjoys as much support as the Sweden Democrats. The party is the third-largest in parliament. Without its backing, neither the centre-right alliance nor a coalition of the Social Democrats, Greens and the small Left party commands a majority. Worse, a new election could see the Sweden Democrats grow stronger, although the absence on sick leave of their leader, Jimmie Akesson, may count against them.Full Article: Sweden’s government: That was quick | The Economist.
It is easy to write off Bosnia as a dysfunctional country hobbled by unnecessary layers of government in which nothing works. In fact, despite an unduly complex system of government that was the price of ending the war in 1995, Bosnia works—but badly. The elections held on October 12th will probably not alter that. Yet to dismiss them as just one more round of political musical chairs would be wrong. Some change may now be in the air. The war left Bosnia divided between the Serb-run Republika Srpska (RS) and the Federation, which is dominated by Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) and Croats. The Federation is divided into ten cantons. In February it was rocked by rioters demonstrating against their parasitic politicians. In May much of the country was engulfed by floods that caused terrible damage. Bosnia’s infrastructure is run down partly because so much money has been stolen but also because it has to pay for too many levels of government.Full Article: Bosnia’s elections: Wind of change | The Economist.
Sweden: Social Democrat Leader Stefan Lofven Defeats Incumbent Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt | Wall Street Journal
Sweden’s Social Democrat Leader Stefan Lofven defeated incumbent Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in parliamentary elections on Sunday, signaling the return of a left-leaning government after eight years in opposition. The shift reflected concerns among the Swedish electorate that Mr. Reinfeldt’s pro-market policies have chipped away at the country’s cherished welfare state. Mr. Reinfeldt said he would resign as prime minister on Monday and as leader of his party by spring. Mr. Lofven, though, still faces tough negotiations with left-leaning allies over forming a coalition government after failing to secure an absolute majority. With nearly all votes counted, results from Sweden’s election authority showed the Social Democrats won 31.1% of the vote, largely unchanged from the last election in 2010, while Mr. Reinfeldt’s Moderate Party slumped to 23.2%, from 30.1% at the last election. Though the two parties won nearly the same amount of votes four years ago, Mr. Reinfeldt’s Moderates were then able to cobble together a larger center-right alliance of parties.Full Article: Sweden's Left Victorious in Elections - WSJ.
Sweden, seen for years as a beacon of stability and reforms in a crisis-ridden Europe, may be heading for political deadlock after Sunday’s general election, with polls suggesting that both right and left might be unable to form a stable government. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s center-right coalition is battling an opposition alliance led by the Social Democrats. But neither group looks set to win a majority – putting them at the mercy of more radical leftist or far-right parties. The Social Democrats, campaigning to spend more money on a welfare state that they founded in the last century, were the election favorites for months. But some polls suggest a once seemingly unassailable lead has narrowed, unsettling businesses and investors and even raising the prospect of a new vote. “It could be an Italian situation, something we’ve hardly ever experienced in Sweden,” said Magnus Henrekson, Director of the Research Institute of Industrial Economics. An increasingly likely scenario is that Social Democrat leader Stefan Lofven will head the biggest party but struggle to cobble together a majority. Even if he won the support of a former communist party, he could still be in a minority against the far right and Reinfeldt’s coalition.Full Article: Trouble in paradise? Sweden risks deadlock in tight election race | Reuters.
Swedish voters are now less likely to oust the government of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Sept. 14 than they were just a week ago. The Social Democrat-led opposition’s lead has narrowed to 4.5 points in the latest poll by Sifo — the smallest difference since May last year — from 7.3 points a week earlier and 9.8 a month earlier. The shift toward the government follows presentations by the main parties revealing their policy goals for the next four years. “We’re talking about 135,000 voters for things to become completely even, and that’s of course not a huge number,” said Toivo Sjoeren, head of opinion research at TNS Sifo in Stockholm, by phone. He says history indicates that even after narrowing, the margin remains too wide for Reinfeldt to be re-elected. “On the other hand, you actually never know.”Full Article: Sweden’s Election Hinges on 135,000 Voters as Race Tightens - Bloomberg.
Germany: Unintended Consequences: The Implications Of The German Coalition Agreement For Europe | Social Europe Journal
German coalition agreement – Commentators have been poring over the 185-page coalition agreement between the German CDU/CSU and the SPD. Germany is the largest economy in the EU and has played a decisive role in recent years in crafting the policies that have sought, to date unsuccessfully, to resolve the economic and financial crisis. What then can Europe hope for from Germany’s next government, based on the text of the coalition agreement? (I skip over the “detail” that the Grand Coalition has to be approved in a vote by all SPD members. There will be considerable opposition, but I cannot see the grassroots rebelling against the party leadership.) Judging only by the sections that explicitly deal with European issues, the short answer is nothing good. Fortunately a number of measures motivated purely by domestic concerns will have favourable knock-on effects on the rest of Europe. Overall, then, the impact ought to be a small positive. The section on Europe bears the title “Strong Europe” and opens with a section on “Germany’s responsibility for Europe” (all translations are mine). Both headings are highly misleading. The policies envisaged will help ensure that Europe will remain enfeebled and Germany’s “responsibility” for Europe limited. Behind the pious language the nine pages can be summarised as saying that the previous and future Chancellor Merkel and her Finance Minister Schäuble will continue to hold the reigns of German policy on Europe firmly in their hands.Full Article: German Coalition Agreement - What Implications For Europe?.
Czech Republic: How the Czech Social Democrats were derailed by a billionaire populist | Policy Network
The Czech experience is a reminder to social democrats that they need to think seriously about the deep undercurrents of anti-political anger bubbling up in European electorates – as well as distributional conflicts and coalitions. On 26 October after two terms in opposition the Social Democrats (ČSSD) emerged as the largest party in early elections in the Czech Republic with the near certainty of the forming the next government. Their political opponents on centre-right whose tottering three-year coalition government finally collapsed amid personal and political scandal in June were routed. The once dominant Civic Democrats (ODS) founded in 1991 by Václav Klaus to bring British-style Thatcherite conservativism to post-communist transformation, was cut down to minor party status with mere 7 per cent of the vote. Its one time partner in government, TOP09, which had championed fiscal austerity slipped to 11 per cent. The Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) – staged a modest recovery edging back into parliament with 6 per cent support, but remained – as they had always been in the Czech lands – a niche party. ‘Heads Up!’, the newly formed conservative eurosceptic bloc endorsed by former president Václav Klaus, scraped a humiliating 0.42 per cent.Full Article: Policy Network - How the Czech Social Democrats were derailed by a billionaire populist.
The Social Democrats have won a narrow victory in early parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic, but the composition of the next government is likely to depend on a billionaire who entered politics only two years ago. The Social Democrats (ČSSD) had enjoyed a commanding, albeit narrowing, lead for most of the two-month election campaign. However, its lead, once over 12 percentage points, shrank rapidly in the final days before yesterday’s and today’s vote, and its final tally, 20.5%, gave it just three more seats than the party of Andrej Babiš, a controversial industrialist and – since this spring – a media magnate. Babiš’s party, ANO 2011-Akce nespokojených občanů (Yes 2011 – Action of Dissatisfied Citizens), won 18.7% of the votes and 47 of the 200 seats in parliament. ANO took votes from all parties and its support was evenly spread across the population. While Babiš succeeded in recruiting a range of celebrities, polls suggest that the party’s late surge dates to a weekend blitz of interviews on television.Full Article: Social Democrats win Czech elections | European Voice.
The Social Democrats appear to have won elections in the Czech Republic as voters angered by years of right-wing graft and austerity veered left. The CSSD are poised to form a minority government. With nearly 100 percent of votes counted, the CSSD scored 20.5 percent, Action for Alienated Citizens (ANO: Czech for “yes”) won 18.7, and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) lagged behind with 15. Likely new premier Bohuslav Sobotka had hinted before polls closed that he could form a minority government with the tacit support of the Communists. “The result may not be what we imagined but it’s the highest score of all parties,” 42-year-old Social Democrat leader Sobotka told reporters in Prague after the election, declaring himself “ready to start talks” on a coalition with all parties in parliament. The election ends seven years of scandal-tainted right-wing rule. Former Finance Minister Sobotka plans to introduce new taxes on banks, utilities and wealth to pay for social programs.Full Article: Social Democrats beat populist ANO in Czech elections | News | DW.DE | 26.10.2013.
Czech Republic: Party System At Risk Of Unravelling In This Week’s Elections | Social Europe Journal
Czech voters go to the polls in early parliamentary elections on 25-26 October. The elections follow the collapse, amid personal and political scandal, of the centre-right government of Petr Nečas in June, and the subsequent failure of President Zeman’s handpicked caretaker administration to win a vote of confidence. At one level the election seems set to deliver a simple and straightforward verdict,: established opposition parties on the left will win, while governing right-wing parties will be heavily rejected by an electorate frustrated with austerity, stagnating living standards and sleaze. The main opposition Czech Social Democrats (ČSSD), most polls have suggested, will emerge as the clear winners with around 25-30 per cent of the vote, although the final polls published before voting have suggested that the party’s support was starting to slide. Meanwhile the hardline Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) is likely to pull in 15-20 per cent.Full Article: Czech Party System At Risk Of Unravelling In This Week’s Elections.
In June this year, the Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas resigned after it was revealed that members of his staff were involved in a possible corruption affair. He was supposed to be replaced by a new representative of the conservative coalition government and everything would continue smoothly. This would most likely have been the case, had Czechs not elected Milos Zeman as President. The former socialist premier used the limitations of the Czech constitution to his advantage and has appointed an interim government instead. Even though this government has been repealed by the parliament, the former coalition deputies were unable to form a new government and thus the Czech Republic moves to early elections at the end of October. During the 2010 parliamentary election the front-runners to lead the country were the Social Democrats (CSSD). Surprisingly, the results meant a second chance was given to the strongest centre-right party : the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), whose platform featured commitments to form a government that preached austerity; to reform key laws and finally spearhead a crackdown on corruption.Full Article: Czech Republic moves for early elections - The Typewriter.
Germany: To Form German Coalition, Merkel’s Party May Need to Support a Minimum Wage | New York Times
Germany has long held out against introducing a nationwide minimum wage, and over the weekend Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized her rejection of the idea. But it may be the price she has to pay to build the stable government she has promised voters. Ms. Merkel’s conservatives met Monday for a second round of preliminary talks with the Social Democrats, the center-left party that is demanding a base wage of 8.50 euros an hour, or $11.55, for workers across Germany, Europe’s largest economy. The issue emerged as a central sticking point the two sides must overcome if they are to proceed to the next step of formally trying to build a coalition. The chancellor’s Christian Democratic Union, along with its Bavaria-only sister party, the Christian Social Union, emerged from a Sept. 22 parliamentary election as the clear winners. But the parties fell five seats short of a majority that would have allowed them to govern alone. Their previous partner in government, the pro-business Free Democrats, was ousted from Parliament, leaving Ms. Merkel searching for a new partner. Ms. Merkel’s conservatives have held an initial round of discussions with the Social Democrats, as well as the Greens. Both meetings concluded with a decision to meet again to sound out whether there are enough common points to open formal negotiations over a coalition that would form the next government.Full Article: To Form German Coalition, Merkel’s Party May Need to Support a Minimum Wage - NYTimes.com.