Sunday, June 07, 2009

Elections: good, bad and ugly

Let there be no euphemism about this much: the UK election results have been atrocious. New Labour was wiped out, but little of this redounded to the advantage of the left. Forget about No2EU, or the Respect Party. The best we could do was give the Greens another 6 council seats to match those of UKIP. This looks like a pretty sad feat of resistance against the tidal wave of Tory blue. The striking gains made by the parties of the hard right, such as the preposterous English Democrats who took the Doncaster mayoral election, stand in complete contrast to the failure of even a symbolic victory for the left to manifest itself. Not even the Lib Dems were able to devour more than scraps from New Labour's carcass - in fact, they lost seats and councils across the board. Electorally, the country has just taken a headlong dive to the right. The worst of this is obviously the gains made by the BNP which, although limited and hedged in by antifascist activism, include 3 new councillors and their first seat on a county council, as well as a number of strong results locally. The worry has always been that they will get seats on the EU parliament, thus giving them not only representation but funding for their ramshackle party machine and more media profile. That obviously remains a strong possibility, and antifascist mobilisation will continue to be a priority after the elections.

The only bright spot is that elections across Europe are likely to go much better for the Left. In Ireland, the People Before Profit alliance has already made a breakthrough with five seats gained so far, while the Socialist Party candidates have also been performing extremely well. The strong vote for the SP's Joe Higgins should translate into a good Euro result for them. In France, the NPA vary between 4 and 9% in the polls, the Left Front vary between 3 or 6%, the Greens get between 7 and 11%, and the dear old Lutte Ouvriere hover consistently around 2%. There is a background here in which left-wing figures such as Michel Onfray are attacking the NPA for not joining with the Left Front in an electoral pact. The pro-PS media seems to be giving voice to these criticisms the better to exacerbate divisions on the left. The difficulty appears to reside in the fact that the Left Front's components (the Parti de Gauche and the PCF) still want to cut electoral deals with the PS, which the NPA fears would result in being compromised by the right-wing policies of the Socialists. But, however the votes are distributed, as a whole the left is polling well , and the fascists of the Front Nationale are set to see their vote fall from about 10% to 6%. In Greece, the polls consistently give high ratings for parties of the left such as Syriza (radical left, 6-8.5%), the KKE (communists, 6-9%) and the Greens (anything from 3 to 8.5%). There is no way to tell how strongly the anticapitalist ΑΝΤ.ΑΡ.ΣΥ.Α. will perform. In Spain, the United Left is polling as high as 5%, which is roughly the difference between the Socialists and the right-wing People's Party. In Portugal, the Left Bloc tends to poll between 8 and 10%, but one opinion survey puts them at 18%. In Germany, the Linke are polling at 8%, a rise on their last vote of 6% but down on some of the superb results we have seen in previous elections. Oh, and of course, there is the tremendous victory for the far left in Greenland (which looks like it will be accompanied by a strong showing for the Socialist People's Party in Denmark, Greenland's colonial overseer).

There is also some bad news afoot. Sadly, in Italy it looks as if the Berlusconi-led 'People of Freedom' will increase their vote on 2004 from 34% to as much as 40%. The left anticapitalist alliance including Rifondazione Comunista is polling at 5%, down from over 8% for the equivalent alliance in 2004, while the Lega Nord expect to get approximately 10%, double their previous figure of approx. 5%. Arguably, things could have been a lot worse by now after last year's electoral disaster which led to fascists in government, fascist salutes and cries of 'duce' in Rome, and threats from the new fascist mayor that had could unleash 300,000 footsoldiers against the Left. In much of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, power is swinging between neoliberal and conservative nationalist blocs, with the Kaczyńskis' party of Law and Order losing out to the neoliberal Civic Platform in Poland, and the centre-right overwhelmingly dominant in Hungary and Slovenia. Finally, most worryingly, the results are in for the Netherlands, and it isn't looking good. The party has swung sharply to the right with a massive increase for Geert Wilders' Freedom Party, making them the second largest party next to the Christian Democrats. The Labour Party lost 11.4% and the radical left has only picked up a small fraction of that. This has been made possible not only by the Islamophobia of the 'war on terror' that the right has capitalised on, but also by the complicity of liberals in that discourse, which gives people like Wilders a veneer of respectibility.

I'll update this post as results come in.

Well, sources in the thread below suggest that: in France, the left vote includes 14.8% for the Greens, 6.3% for the Left Front, 5.5% for the NPA, and 1.5% for Lutte Ouvriere. The Front Nationale saw their vote fall to 6%; in Greece, the KKE are projected to get up to 10%, Syriza between 5 and 7%, and the Greens have between 4 and 6%. The far right LAOS has anything up to 7% of the vote; and in Germany the Linke have about 7.5% of the vote. There are projections listed here which more or less confirm these estimates.

In the UK, it looks as if UKIP is expected to come second to the Tories with 18% of the vote, which is pretty disastrous. I note that Labour and Tories between them seem to command only 42% of the vote, which partially reflects the low turnout and lack of motivation among their core supporters, and also the splintering and polarisation that is taking place. LabourList isn't necessarily reliable, but it is reporting that the BNP are likely to send their fuhrer to Europe as a representative for the sunny West Midlands, and are 'confident' in Yorkshire.

I hear that Sweden has just seen a 7.4% vote for the Pirate Party, although the Left Bloc has seen its vote fall to 6%. Yarrr. In Germany, the right-wing EPP bloc (CDU + CSU) has lost 7.1% of its vote, with 1% distributed to the Greens, 1% to the Socialists (SPD), 1% to the Linke and 4% to the liberals (pro-business FDP). The results for France are in, and it looks as if the combined Left vote (NPA and Left Front and others) is 14%, up 4%. The Socialists (PS) are down 18.1%, and the EPP (Sarkozy's UMP and others) is up a whopping 15.3%. The Green vote is also up 11%.

Austria has swung to the right, with reduced votes for the Socialists and Greens, and gains for the nationalist right. The far right and nationalist parties got about a third of the vote between them. Similar story with Finland, it seems, where both the Socialists and Left lost 7% each.

The Grauniad reports that there was a confrontation at Manchester, where antifascist activists prevented Nick Griffin from attending the count.

Labour are being so thoroughly slaughtered that they have been beaten to second place by UKIP in Hull, of all cities. The rise of UKIP in this election, after their setback with Kilroy-Silk and the Veritas split-away, is quite astonishing. They, not the Tories, are picking up the bulk of the right-wing 'protest vote'. It is also now confirmed that Labour came fifth in Cornwall.

BNP wins its first MEP with 120,000 votes in Yorkshire and Humber. That means the Nazis can look forward to £2m in funds and the kind of media coverage you normally have to kill for.