The return of the Left postponed by leftists

Photo by Contando Estrelas

With the Portuguese election resulting in a numerical victory for the Socialist Bloc, it is almost a paradox that the Conservative Bloc stays in power. This election has shown that the Left often is its own worst enemy.

By Esben Harboe

Before the crisis of 07, Portugal was a stable European country. But the crisis proved merciless, and led to enormous unemployment and a weakened economic situation, with almost a third of the youth left unemployed. Although the crisis is far from over, the recent election 4 October 2015 was focused on either continuing the chosen path, or trying something else.

The Portuguese voters had the choice between three Blocs: The Conservative (PàF), Socialist (PD) or the Communist (BE).
With PàF winning due to 38 percent of the votes against the 32 of PD and the 10 of BE, it will likely lead to a minority government, headed by the Conservatives.

However the ironic part is, that the Portuguese left combined is much larger than the Conservative, says José Ignacio Torreblanca, Head of the Pan – European think tank European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) Madrid Office and Senior Policy Fellow.

“The main issue is, that the Conservative Bloc stands united, while the left is much more divided. In Portugal, the Left have the chance of working together and gain majority, but they will hardly agree to unite with each other,” he says to Euroscope.

“Austerity works”?
The slogan of the PàF during the election was “Austerity Works”, a kind of policy focused on fixing budget deficiencies by increasing taxes, cutting government expenses and reducing debt.
And looking at a recent Eurostat publication on European unemployment, this might be true.

According to Eurostat, overall unemployment fell from 16.4 percent in 2013 to 12.4 in 2015, while youth unemployment fell from 38 percent to 31.8. So while the country is recovering from the crisis, there is still a long road ahead to a full recovery. Therefore, as before, the conservative economic policy will continue.

“ The Right wholeheartedly believe in austerity measures, whereas the Social Democratic Left see it as a necessary evil. While Left Wing parties advocate for growth oriented politics to get out of the crisis faster, there are minimal chances of that happening in the EU, where the Union is in charge of the financial policies. They (The Left) therefore have to apply austerity measures they don’t believe in, since they don’t have any alternative means to deal with the current economic crisis. ” Torreblanca states.

European Left split between cooperation or replacement
With Syriza staying in power in Greece, and the left wing party Podemos in Spain getting 14 percent in the latest polls, some commentators went so far as to see this as a possible return of Left Wing parties in Europe. However, the recent events may cull these speculations indefinitely.

With the Portuguese Left failing to topple the Government, and with Podemos more interested in supplanting the other Spanish socialists than cooperating with them, a return of the left seems unlikely at the moment, explains José Ignacio Torreblanca.

“At this point, Podemos think it’s their job to replace the moderate socialists, because they do not consider them fit for governing and defeating the Conservatives. This is a traditional Left Wing challenge; it exists between Social Democrats and communists all over Europe. They never seem to agree who they are against, and this, in the end, are stopping them from governing,” he ends.

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