Monday, 6 October 2014

Postcards from Latvia, Bulgaria, Brazil, and back home in Britain

Yesterday, Brazil held its general election, and of more noteworthiness, its presidential election.

It appears so far that as predicted, incumbent Dilma Rousseff of the so-called 'Workers' Party' (which is not really left-wing anymore) has been re-elected President of Brazil, in spite of a strong challenge from Marina da Silva and Dilma's failure to properly tackle serious economic and social inequalities in large cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo.

Since the departure of the famous Luiz Inacio da Silva ('Lula' to Brazilians) as President, the Workers' Party of Brazil has been going downhill somewhat, and has adopted a more centrist stance (which is considerably better than either of the major parties in the USA, admittedly) economically. This allowed Marina da Silva to win as much as 22% in the first round of the presidential election, but it was not enough to make it to the runoff, where Dilma faces Aecio Neves, presidential candidate of Brazil's Social Democratic Party (in reality centre-right, like Portugal's own Social Democrats). These votes will not be decided until 26 October, and Brazil's parliamentary results have not been fully released yet for some reason, so I cannot comment further here, apart from saying that the left-wing (some say far-left) Socialism and Freedom Party has elected a few more deputies by the looks of preliminary results.

Meanwhile, there were also parliamentary elections in Bulgaria and Latvia the same weekend-and sadly, both produced bad news for progressive politics in many ways.

Despite the fact that last year, the centre-left Coalition for Bulgaria had ended up forming the coalition despite not being the largest party in the Bulgarian Parliament (the centre-right GERB remains the largest party), their vote share collapsed substantially, falling from 26% to just 15%. GERB meanwhile recovered a bit of lost ground, but newer parties in Bulgaria (many right-wing) were the main beneficiaries of this year's election. The junior coalition partners, DPS (Movement for Rights and Freedoms), went up from 11.3% to 14.8%, just some thousands of votes short of becoming the second-largest party in Bulgaria. Frighteningly, the far-right Patriotic Front polled 7.3% of the vote, much of it presumably coming from ex-voters of ATAKA, Bulgaria's main extremist party. Another interesting new entry into the Bulgarian Parliament is the Alternative Bulgarian Revival (ABV) movement, a left-wing party started by ex-socialist Georgi Parvanov, who was once President of Bulgaria and has chiefly called for fairer taxation.

The Bulgarian Greens sadly did not come close to winning parliamentary seats, especially with two other parties calling themselves greens (Party of the Greens and Left and the Green Party) in this election, who split their vote (a similar thing happened in Hungary earlier this year).

Over in Latvia, the battle for first place in the polls was tightly fought, with the centre-left Harmony coming out on top once again, but with only 24 seats compared to the 31 it won in 2011. Much of Eastern Europe is turning sharply right psephologically-and Latvia proved to be no exception this time when the main right-wing parties, the centre-right Unity and neoconservative, right-wing National Alliance, gained 3 seats apiece, giving them 23 seats and 17 seats respectively in the new Latvian Saeima. The Union of Greens and Farmers, largely agrarian as opposed to being truly green, also won most of the seats back that they lost in 2011. Two new parties entered the Latvian Saeima: an association of provincial parties called Latvia for the Regions and a pro-Russian (but not left-wing unlike the Latvian Russian Union) party called For Latvia From the Heart gained 8 and 7 seats apiece. Sadly, the Latvian Russian Union did not win any seats this time, even though they have an MEP who sits in the Green-EFA group. Most disappointing of all, the Socialist Party of Latvia, the most left-wing component of the Harmony Centre alliance, did not even contest this parliamentary election-but why?

Meanwhile back in Britain, I am pleased to say that there is a good chance that the Green Party could beat the Liberal Democrats in both the Clacton by-election and the Heywood and Middleton by-election-in particular, our candidate for Heywood and Middleton, Abi Jackson did us proud on the most recent Sunday politics show. We are also still polling at well, on 7% (neck and neck with the Liberal Democrats), although worryingly the Conservatives have now overtaken Labour in multiple opinion polls for the first time in more than two years, probably due to the somewhat limp performance of Labour at their conference and the promises of tax cuts made at the Conservative conference. With our growing support, I wish Abi Jackson and Chris Southall the best of luck on Thursday 9th-I will be watching the result live in case you ask :)


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