Sunday, 1 February 2015

Change will come in Europe - but slowly

Certain sections of the commentariat are quite excited this morning at what they think will be a domino effect in European politics, following the victory of Syriza. In Spain, Podemos can bring huge crowds to the streets and are taking about a third of the poll against the established duopoly of the PP and PSOE. Likewise in France, the FN have about a third of the opinion poll share. Spain has national elections due in November, and France's regional elections in March will test the poll predictions. Here, the strength of UKIP's challenge will be felt in May and the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Denmark all have elections in some form this year that allow opportunities for insurgent parties. 

However, I'd caution not to underestimate the built in checks to rapid political change that exist in all of Europe's democratic systems. There is a tendency towards stability and the status quo built in to all the various electoral systems. Syriza won in Greece because they got a game-changing free 50 seats as the leading party; on vote share alone, they scored 99 seats, not 149. And as in France and Spain, that's about a third of the poll. And I suspect that most European parliaments would prefer to form a bodge-up 'government of national unity' from the old incumbent parties rather than allow the insurgent newcomers into power.    

The establishment has staked its claim on the basis that populism isn't democracy - that votes for the insurgent parties across Europe are somehow less democratically valid than votes for established parties. Expect to hear this argument developed far more deeply and pervasively as elections near. 

Threatened civil servants and bureaucrats across Europe will also work to game the system to keep their old benefactors in power, fearful of the retributive power of an insurgent administration to extract reckoning for past corruption and incompetence. 

Over time, democracy will win - the ballot box will win - but the democratic struggle will not be easy. Loosing the rictus grip of Con, Lab and Spiv politicians on the green leather of the Commons' benches will take an outsize boot to stamp on their pinkies. And along with Europe's entire political establishment, ours will throw everything into keeping power and excluding insurgents, even at the cost of democracy itself.    

8 comments:

Mike Spilligan said...

This is something I've been thinking about, but ended up with mixed thoughts.
The EU has got endless money to persuade and bribe - when many of those who want to cling to power will try to do that without either. We only have to think of Cameron in November saying that he was shocked at a demand for immediate payment for something not previously known about; but after squirming a bit (for the media) he paid up anyway, using a bit of chicanery.
The other side of me - based on past experiences - says that when a movement gets going it can collapse very quickly. Those of us who watched the Dresden demonstrations in 1989 (? was it really then) - in November; would never have predicted that almost the whole of Soviet eastern Europe would collapse by the New Year.

Bill said...

You didn't mention the elephant in the room which is more like a psychotic pit bull on steroids and taking crack cocaine.

Freedom of speech has just about been put to bed because of the fear of Abu Fanta bin mohammed.

Waffle about values of civilisation and democracy seems vacuous in these pivotal times.

Beheadings are weekly events now. Slaughter a village of 200+ in Africa, barely makes the news.
Nowt to do with the religion of peace.

Twitter something that may offend the sensitive, hair trigger psychos and you could do time for provocation. The sharia compliant authorities will come down heavy.

Still, CBB is on Channel 5 at 9:00pm. Reality TV.

Cascadian said...

I suspect you are correct, change rarely seems to come about quickly and yet there is a sense that European political groupings are becoming unhinged.
Against the better judgement of the "ruling classes" the French, Dutch, Greek and Norwegians are electing what would in previous times be considered outliers.
I think the same may be true in Britain, liebour is deservedly in trouble in its heartlands, the conservatives have alienated many thousands of natural conservatives, the dimbulbs have lost any creditability with students. I get the sense that older voters (the ones who actually show up on polling day) are especially aggrieved. That leaves a massive percentage of the electorate unaligned, ready to be wooed by "fringe" parties.
A startling result could happen yet.

DeeDee99 said...

I expect that if Marine le Pen wins the first round of the French elections, the opposition parties of left and right will unite to block her.

I believe the same would happen in the UK if it looked likely that UKIP was going to be kingmaker in a hung Parliament. Labour and the Conservatives would form a coalition to stop a party that represents the people, not the Elite.

Despite the obstacles, I expect there will be some upsets in the next year or so. The Forlorn Hope, Syriza, has breached the walls.

Bloke In Italy said...

I wouldn't hold your breath gents... he greek business is unlikely to play out the way the media are calling it.

Tsipras is just a politician therefore he will in the end adopt the line of least resistance, a compromise will be found which enables the whole shebang to creak a little further down the road.

These people have spent 70 years building this structure; it's not going to fold due to a bunch of uppity greeks. They will be put back in their box, to keep the germans in.

At some point the Germans will lose it and leave but that point is still half a generation in the future, in my opinion.

I hope I'm wrong and its sooner, because then the fall out might be less severe.

Only time will tell.

G. Tingey said...

DD99
I suspect that the tories would be more likely to do an unofficial deal with UKIP ... only to renege on it, once they were apparently securely in power

Budgie said...

Bloke in Italy, You are right, though I think the Germans will hold on a lot longer than you suppose - it is their ticket back to the civilised world.

The Greeks have already had some debt forgiveness, the sensible future option would be to tie repayment to growth. The Greeks will not be given a Get-out-of-Jail-free card, because the whole purpose of this exercise is to discipline Greek politicians to never be so profligate again. Meanwhile the Greek people love the euro.

Cascadian said...

Change is coming to Europe:

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-02-03/sp-downgrades-numerous-european-banks-warns-deutsche-bank-may-be-next

No wonder Georgie Osborne was pleading with Greece to "act responsibly".

Insolvent banks, top-to-bottom. The electorate are going to be very annoyed when the next bailout occurs.