Several of Europe’s centre-left parties have suffered disappointing election results since the financial crisis, but is this slide in support permanent or can they arrest their decline? Sheri Berman writes that with the rise of new parties on the populist right, the centre-left risks sliding into irrelevance unless it can respond with viable and attractive solutions to contemporary problems.
At the turn of the century social democratic parties were in power across the European Union – now: “recently their share of the vote in domestic (and Europe-wide) elections has fallen by a third to lows not seen for 70 years (see chart 1). In the five European Union (EU) states that held national elections last year, social democrats lost power in Denmark, fell to their worst-ever results in Finland, Poland and Spain and came to within a hair’s-breadth of such a nadir in Britain.
If they want to keep fighting, Europe’s social democrats must reckon with a newly unsentimental, biddable and fragmented electorate and a range of rivals eager to steal their supporters. They will need to combine distinctiveness, credibility and persuasiveness: no mean feat. They are no longer carried forth by the tide of history and are often swimming against it. They must make their own currents.”