The year 2017 was a period of almost uniform “demise” and “retreat” for Europe’s political centre-left, The Guardian and New York Times newspapers have declared.
Across the continent this year, 946 districts held top-level votes, but in only 56 (just under 6 per cent) did centre-left parties hold their own or improve their vote share.
According to The Guardian’s analysis, in almost 94 per cent of districts that went to the polls in Europe this year, the centre-left lost out to far-left, right-wing, and populist movements.
“Atomised in France, all but wiped out in the Netherlands, humiliated in Germany, Europe’s mainstream centre-left is in full retreat.
“Even in its one-time stronghold of Scandinavia, social democracy is now struggling,” wrote Jon Henley in the UK’s most leftwing mainstream paper this Friday.
The demise of moderate social democracy in Europe
On the left, 946 districts that held top level votes in 2017
— Matthew Goodwin (@GoodwinMJ) December 29, 2017
The paper’s analysis reveals how populist, right-wing groups have largely benefited from the centre-left’s downfall, but radical leftists and other right-wingers have also picked up their votes.
In a New York Times (NYT) opinion article focusing on Germany, published a day earlier, an author for the liberal paper similarly declares the European centre-left in “retreat” after 2017.
“This downward trend is not limited to Germany – In most major Western European countries, centre-left parties are in retreat, and in some cases they have practically ceased to exist,” explains Jochen Bittner, who also writes for Germany’s liberal-left Die Zeit weekly.
"in most major Western European countries, center-left parties are in retreat, and in some cases they have practically ceased to exist. Just what has happened to social democracy?" https://t.co/DUy3STwEp6
— Matthew Anderson (@MattAndersonNYT) December 29, 2017
In German federal elections, the populist, right-wing AfD picked up their first ever seats in the legislature, surging to 12 per cent, and the centre-left and right had their worst election in the post-war period.
In France, the socialists of former president François Hollande crumbled to Emmanuel Macron’s new centrists, and the populist, right-wing Front National surged, with Marine Le Pen, their leader, reaching the final round of voting in the presidential race for the first time.
In Austria, the centre-left actually gained by 0.1 per cent, but the right wing swept to power under the young, populist leader Sebastian Kurz.
In the Netherlands, the Dutch Labour party saw a crushing defeat, whilst the right wing populists Freedom Party led by Geert Wilders surged.
The articles in the Guardian and NYT come as new research finds the share of the votes taken by populist parties in Europe has almost trebled since 2000, rising from 8.5 per cent to 24.1 per cent.
According to the Tony Blair Institute for Change, “Europe’s political landscape is undergoing the biggest transformation since the end of the Cold War.”
In the past 17 years, the number of populist parties across the continent has almost doubled, rising from 33 to 63, with the largest change in Eastern Europe.
On average, in 2017, around 13 per cent of the vote in Western Europe went to populist parties, compared to around 32 per cent in the east.