The social democratic electoral haemorrhage | Opinion
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The European citizens summoned to the polls throughout 2022 deposited in them a lot of bad news for the Social Democratic family, which this weekend celebrates its congress in Berlin.
The group reaped a remarkable series of victories from September of last year to January of this, with triumphs in the legislative elections in Norway, Germany, Portugal and the positive Italian municipal ones. It was plausible to interpret that, in the midst of the enormous challenges of our time, many citizens valued opting for the historical builders of social protection. But, from there -from Costa’s victory in Portugal in January-, an electoral ordeal has opened.
In France, the socialist formation has been practically annihilated in the spring presidential and legislative elections, buried between the vigor of the liberal center of Macron and that of the eurosceptic left of Mélenchon. In September, the PD suffered a heavy defeat in the recent legislative elections in Italy. In Sweden, the voters have evicted the Social Democrats from power, and just yesterday the conservative side sealed a government pact with the external support of the extreme right. Throughout the year, other worrying signs have been accumulating on his table, such as the two heavy defeats in the Spanish regional elections -Castilla y León and Andalusia- or a new step towards parliamentary irrelevance in Bulgaria in the elections on the 2nd , a further symptom of the great difficulty of establishing roots on the eastern flank of the EU. In Denmark, the Socialist Executive has had to call early elections when the majority that supported it cracked: it remains to be seen how the planned vote will go in a couple of weeks.
The panorama of the surveys is not encouraging either. The projection of seats in the European Parliament made by the organization Europe Elects on the basis of national polls also reflects a decline of the family that, at the end of last year, had managed for a brief period to overtake the EPP in that graph for the first time since 2016. In Germany, the SPD has achieved an important victory in the state of Lower Saxony, but at the national level its voting intention has dropped a lot in recent months. In Spain, the PSOE enters the final stretch of the legislature with unfavorable polls.
What happen? The Social Democratic delegates meeting in Berlin have a complex exercise of analysis and prescription ahead of them. Part of it, of course, is the normal pendulum cycles of politics: you win and you lose, defeats today may give way to victories tomorrow. Naturally, in addition, each of the recent defeats has specific causes, such as the inability to form a competitive and cohesive coalition in Italy or the erosion of the exercise of power in Sweden. But there are some common features.
Perhaps the priority is to assume that there is no automatic connection between the citizen’s desire for protection in a turbulent world and a commitment to the social democratic offer. A very large part of the popular classes that are reeling today and that were once a great fishing ground for that family are opting for other options. For radical proposals, which antagonize a system that does not work for them and of which the Social Democrats are considered co-authors, both in a national-populist key – Le Pen type – and leftist populism -Mélenchon, Five Stars-. Or, directly, to pass everything: with abstentionism never seen before, as in France or Italy.
In this context, the Social Democrats will have to manage a very short blanket. If it covers the instincts of moderation, pragmatism, responsibility and environmental defense of the urban educated middle classes (perhaps, today, their main fishing ground), they leave those popular classes that want a radical, protectionist change, unwilling to make a green sacrifice, out in the cold. If they advance along the path of the avant-garde defense of identity rights, young people win, but older people lose. Very complex to find the exact point. ‘Medio tutissimus ibis’ (in the middle, you will go for sure), Ovid pointed out in the famous verse of the Metamorphoses. Where will that medium be? We are all looking for a center of gravity, permanent, or even for a while. Admitting outright what’s wrong is often a good starting point for the search.
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