What left-of-centre parties have won elections in recent years and how?
April 29, 2021 5:37 AM   Subscribe

Internationally, what left-of-centre parties have won large scale elections in recent years, and how did they do it? What kind of policies, candidates and campaign strategies did they adopt?
posted by TheophileEscargot to Law & Government (19 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Parties and Elections in Europe is a good resource for European politics.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:09 AM on April 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

In Danmark, we have a Social Democratic minority government, supported by a left-of center majority coalition. There is no sign of that changing soon, and the right is in comical disarray.
This has been a blessing during corona, and there is a local version of a green new deal on its way. Other popular policies are improved social security for the elderly and an attempt to improve psychiatry. We already have a functioning welfare state, so it's tweaking at the edges on that front.

The green part is to my mind not ambitious enough, but here they depend on the coalition for backing and we can see they are being slowly dragged towards the left. I believe that in ten years, we will be in a good place when it comes to the development of new technologies, changed lifestyles and reduction in both CO2, loss of biodiversity and watershed pollution.

The bad part is: the government believe that their path to power is aligning themselves with the right on immigration policies. I honestly don't know if that is true. But it is the reason they have chosen to form a minority government, so they can make alliances with the right when it comes to immigration, while making social, economic and environmental policies with their left-wing coalition.

Like some American commentators describe the Biden administration as the "end of the Reagan era", I think Mette Frederiksen has brought an end to the Fogh era. Even though we did have one four year administration led by Social Democrats during the last twenty years, they couldn't break the economic paradigm that had been established by Fogh and his friends. We probably also suffered from a mild version of the Dutch disease, and corruption, grift and financial swindlers rose dramatically during the period.

I'm curious as to how long the anti-immigrant stance will last. Like in the US, the demographics are changing - alone in my family, there are suddenly several mixed-heritage couples in the youngest adult generation. People are getting used to having doctors, dentists, nurses and many other people in their everyday life with an immigrant background. 20 years ago, I had never seen a pharmacist who wasn't white-white, now our best local pharmacy is owned by the son of immigrants. Half of my students are children of immigrants.
Also, we have a very low birthrate, I don't think the economy can be sustained if we don't allow some influx.
The immigration minister is (as in the UK) himself from an immigrant background. I have no idea what is going on in his head, but apart from his political opportunism, he is a smart person.

I mentioned that the right is in disarray. Unfortunately we are seeing some copycat trumpists and insurrectionists who are threatening with violence and going beyond anything we have ever heard when it comes to racism. They are a tiny minority but they are very noisy. They are also getting very harsh punishments when they break the law, and of course, guns are very tightly regulated here.

I know a lot of people on both sides of the aisle here, and most agree that there "is no alternative" to Mette right now.
posted by mumimor at 6:29 AM on April 29, 2021 [2 favorites]

The left party in Bolivia, MAS (Movement Towards Socialism) won national elections last year after a right-wing coup in 2019 put them out of power.
posted by grobstein at 6:30 AM on April 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

In Greece, Syriza transformed over a few short years from a 3% also-run to winning the 2015 general election and forming a government.

This was mostly a result of the debt crisis and subsequent austerity: Before the crisis, Greek politics had two major parties - Nea Dimokratia on the right and PASOK on the left - trading places in government. Their forming a coalition government in 2012 (along with smaller left-wing DIMAR) left Syriza as the leading anti-austerity party on the left; the next option for voters would be the traditional Communist Party which did not really have (and possibly did not desire) the broad appeal that could lead to an electoral win. As a result, voters flocked to Syriza, who over a short span of time managed to absorb both the voter base and a lot of the political figures of PASOK; a similar dynamic that has played out in other political systems recently has been termed Pasokification in political studies after this.
posted by each day we work at 7:44 AM on April 29, 2021 [2 favorites]

Left of which centre? All of our right-wing parties in Ireland are still more left than US Republicans and most are more left than Democrats.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:51 AM on April 29, 2021 [11 favorites]

The Liberal Party of Canada won a majority in 2015, and again a minority in 2019. Hard to say what in particular caused them to win, but some potential factors:

* An exciting, young, bilingual leader in Justin Trudeau
* A willingness to propose running deficits, when the other centre-left party promised balanced budgets
* Bringing up ideas that hadn't previously been prominent on a national level, such as marijuana legalization
* Sinking oil prices had hurt the economy under the previous government
* Counter-effective attack ads from the Conservative party
posted by vasi at 7:53 AM on April 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Left of which centre?

Basically relative to whatever country you're in. I'm just interested if there are any patterns worldwide for what works in the current era.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:57 AM on April 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oh also, the Labour Party in New Zealand won a massive victory in last year's election. The first majority win of any party since the start of the current voting system almost thirty years ago!

Labour was already in power since 2017, though as a much weaker coalition government with two other parties. By far the largest factor in their 2020 win was their effective handling of COVID-19, basically eliminating community transmission through effective managed isolation.
posted by vasi at 7:59 AM on April 29, 2021 [5 favorites]

Jacinda Ardern and NZ Labour scraped into office in 2017: the incumbent Nationals won the most seats but couldn't find a coalition partner for a parliamentary majority. Ardern had taken over the party leadership late and brought a lot of energy to the campaign. Winston Peters decided that NZ First (a populist party that's mostly his personal vehicle and hard to place on the usual political spectrum) would have more influence in a Labour-led coalition, and the Greens got them over the line with confidence and supply.

Ardern's response to the Christchurch massacre and the Whakaari/White Island tragedy earned a lot of praise and her personal popularity remained high. However, the government struggled with economic conditions and lukewarm results from key policy initiatives, and polls showed Labour flagging in late 2019 and early 2020 with an election coming up. Then Covid happened.

The government decided to impose hard restrictions very early, and it worked. The personal goodwill towards Ardern and her style of governing helped; the collective willingness to follow the restrictions helped; the economic assistance helped; the communications strategy helped. She could say "be strong, be kind and unite" and it felt genuine. The 2020 election was a Labour landslide.

One thing often noted about New Zealand is that Rupert Murdoch doesn't have a significant media presence. (Ironically, Stuff was started by a company part-owned by News Corp.) The "grumpy old people" demographic that right-wing parties and conservative media have activated elsewhere was also already served to some degree by Peters and NZ First with less overall toxicity. The immigration debate is also much more complicated.
posted by holgate at 8:00 AM on April 29, 2021 [7 favorites]

On vasi's point: Canada's interesting because the Liberals are the "natural party of government" while centre-right parties play that role in the UK, Australia, NZ and parts of Europe, e.g CDU/CSU in Germany. Although they'd been trounced in recent years, there was always a sense that voters would return home once the stars aligned.

For centre-left parties elsewhere it takes an extra heave: voters have to reject a ruling party that's in power more often than not, and trust the challenger.
posted by holgate at 8:19 AM on April 29, 2021 [2 favorites]

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has a slightly complicated devolved power structure, where Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland - 3 of the 4 countries that make up the UK - have some devolved authority over things like the NHS, education, and various other things. But the UK as a whole is ruled from Parliament, which is in Westminster, in England. England is the 4th of the four UK countries and doesn't have a devolved authority.

With that in mind, Wales and Scotland's devolved governments both have left of centre parties in charge. These are the Labour party, and the Scottish National Party, respectively. Elections for these devolved governments are next happening on May 6th 2021 (so next week, at the time of writing) and the SNP are expected to win a large majority in the Scottish Parliament. The Welsh situation is a bit less certain, but since Welsh devolution 20+ years ago Labour has consistently been the biggest party even if not always getting an outright majority.

In some ways this is in reaction to England, which is by far the biggest part of the UK by both population (60-ish million vs 5.5-ish million and 3-ish million for Scotland and Wales) and income, and which more often than not votes in the right of centre Conservative party, thus dooming the more left-leaning Scotland and Wales to what can seem like unending UK government by a party that those countries have never chosen to lead them. But of course there's a lot more to it than that and neither Scotland nor Wales is politically monolithic

There are lots and lots of good resources to follow this election and the issues that will decide them, starting with the BBC, the national broadcaster which, despite regular attacks from both sides of the political aisle for bias (a sign that it's probably doing its job) is reputable and regularly seen as one of the most trusted institutions in the UK. The Guardian is a good left-of-centre newspaper, and The Telegraph is the best known right-of-centre broadsheet (although it's paywalled) if you're looking for places to start reading up.
posted by underclocked at 9:00 AM on April 29, 2021 [4 favorites]

I think whether the SNP is a left wing party also depends on whether you look at them in the context of Scottish elections (you could argue for either centre, centre-right, or centre-left) or Westminster elections (definitely left).

Like a lot of similar parties, the shared project of sovereignty also holds together people who might not share similar views on economics.

Anyway, OP is in London so probably pretty familiar with UK politics.

Some examples of where a party that was locally left of centre whether social democratic or socialist has won substantial elections recently:

-US Democrats in 2020 election
-The "Pink wave" in Latin America in the 2010s... but subsequently reversed in right wing election victories
-In Germany, the Greens are very likely to come a strong second or win outright in the upcoming elections
-2019 Portuguese election
-2019 Spanish election
-2018 Italian election led to an alliance that included M5S who are kind of left populist in some economic ways but went into alliance with LN who are right wing populists
posted by atrazine at 9:44 AM on April 29, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The wiki pages for political internationals are decent for a broad survey of national parties of a given tendency. In your case: I didn't link any Communist Internationals because there are about 3 per individual communist and the parties in power tend not to be big on electoralism.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 9:47 AM on April 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

you might read up on the work the Working Families Party is doing in the US!
posted by elgee at 10:09 AM on April 29, 2021 [2 favorites]

you might read up on the work the Working Families Party is doing in the US!

Yes, and to really understand what it is they do, look up fusion voting. It only exists in I think 3 US states and is critical to their model.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:19 AM on April 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

Fusion voting is critical for the Working Families Party but they did win a city council race in Philadelphia in 2019 without it. Albeit they were aided by the city charter which reserves two of five at large seats for minority parties.

Typically those would be filled by Republicans but they got enough Democrats to cast one of their five at large votes for Brooks to pull ahead of the Republicans. A second candidate on the WFP ticket came quite close to winning as well.
posted by nolnacs at 11:38 AM on April 29, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everybody! This is really helpful!
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:20 AM on April 30, 2021

A few more thoughts on New Zealand:

National were aiming for a 4th term in government, and their very popular leader John Key had retired.
Labour had put up a succession of older, white guys as leaders. None had gained traction. Ardern was a big generational jump, 15 years younger than her predecessor. She's highly charismatic.
Although the right had won three elections in a row, our proportional representation system means the left wasn't massively behind the right. It's just that the Greens were polling very highly, and Labour very poorly.
Ardern took over, announced that climate change was her key priority, and immediately swept up a lot of the Labour/Green floating vote. She also came out strongly against Greens leader Meteria Turei, who had admitted to youthful benefit fraud. Turei stood down, the Greens were weakened and Labour stronger. [I'm a Greens member, and I think what she did was genius from a political point of view, even though it hurt us].

This meant that when the election results came in, Labour was the major part of the left bloc, which in turn made it palatable for New Zealand First to support a Labour government (there's no way they would have supported a government with a strong Green component). And equally, Greens leader James Shaw deserves a lot of credit for an election night speech in which he addressed NZ First's Peters directly, telling him that the left had the numbers and asking Peters to join them (when most commentators had assumed that National had won).

So it's complicated! Lots of factors.

Then in the 2020 election, Labour's excellent handling of COVID-19 helped a lot, but also National was totally inept, doing nothing but criticise and make suggestions that would have turned out badly. National then ditched their leader in a panic, then the replacement resigned. They spent their time fighting each other, knowing that whichever faction lost would see its members demoted, given a low spot on the party list and therefore likely out of Parliament after the election. So they weren't really trying to beat Labour and win an election, but beat each other and keep their jobs.
posted by Pink Frost at 2:44 PM on April 30, 2021 [3 favorites]

The NDP in British Columbia is the left of centre party (though more moderate than the national NDP), and has won the last two elections.

The first one was taking over in 2017 after 16 years of governance by the BC Liberal Party (who are right of centre, despite the name). The NDP still suffered a poor reputation for governance among some people due to things that happened in the 1990s. That election was extremely close - 43 seats NDP, 41 Liberals, 3 Greens. So, the NDP relied on Green support throughout the term. Their campaign promises were fairly ambitious, and the public was pretty unhappy with the Liberals. Some of the promises were pretty clearly targeted to gain certain votes - for example removing the tolls on bridges used predominantly by people located in BC Liberal strongholds.

High points of the platform included a $15 minimum wage, eliminating interest on student loans, a referendum on electoral reform, banning corporate and union donations to political parties (which had the result that the NDP were better funded than the BC Liberals in the next election), eliminating fees for the government health insurance, and stopping or reducing rate increases for auto insurance. I think the key thing about the platform is that it was sufficiently ambitious, put money directly into people's pockets, and noticeable to people when implemented so they can attribute the improvements to the NDP.

By the CBC's evaluation, they fulfilled 79% of the 2017 campaign promises.

They called an election in late 2020 and won a sweeping victory of 57 of the 87 total seats, partially on the strength of the early COVID response. At the time the public mood about the COVID response here was positive, and it's now extremely negative as we've recently had the highest cases of the whole pandemic, so calling the election then was a good choice.

The BC Liberals also managed to embroil themselves in minor scandals in the 2020 election, as well as being generally confused about what they stand for as a lot of moderate folks have switched to supporting the NDP now that NDP has proven their ability to govern effectively. They're now torn between their corporate libertarian type supporters, and social conservatives with no clear path forward.
posted by lookoutbelow at 2:57 PM on May 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

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